According to a report recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pregnancy-related deaths are on the rise, especially among women of color. It also found that the majority of these deaths are preventable.
Around 700 women in the U.S. die every year from pregnancy-related complications, which can occur up to a year after a woman gives birth. Of these deaths, 36% happen during delivery or up to one week after, 33% happen one week to one year after delivery and 31% occur during pregnancy.
We spoke with D. Ashley Hill, MD, medical director of obstetrics and gynecology at AdventHealth Medical Group, to find out what can be done to prevent these deaths and how to stay healthy during and after your pregnancy.
What’s Causing Pregnancy-Related Deaths?
“It’s a very complex problem that has myself and my colleagues very concerned,” says Dr. Hill. “If you look at the U.S. specifically, you’ll find it’s different than around the world. In other parts of the world women usually die due to hemorrhaging, but here in the States, heart disease is the number one reason pregnant women die.”
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and responsible for a quarter of all deaths.
Heart disease accounts for 25% of pregnancy-related deaths, followed by 14% due to hemorrhaging, 11% from infection, 8% due to embolism, 7% from hypertension and mental health conditions such as suicide account for 7%.
According to the report from the CDC, “Every pregnancy-related death reflects a web of missed opportunities.”
They concluded that each pregnancy-related death was caused by several contributing factors like a lack of knowledge among patients, the lack of access to appropriate and high-quality care and missed or delayed diagnoses.
According to a workforce study by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, there are over 3,000 counties in the United States, but almost half of these don’t have a single OB/GYN, and many don’t have a maternity hospital.
“Many pregnant women don’t have access to the care they need,” explained Dr. Hill. “Lack of access to care is causing many of these problems and needs to be addressed immediately if we hope to turn these numbers around.”
Solving Pregnancy-Related Complications
“Increasing accessibility to high-quality health care appears to be the number one way to solve this issue,” says Dr. Hill. “Secondly, improving the knowledge and education pregnant women are getting would go a long way to reducing these deaths. If more women were educated to know what to look for and be prepared for any of the changes in their bodies that could indicate a potential problem with their pregnancy or their overall health, then they could tell their care provider and make them aware. Also, adequate training for physicians, midwives and labor nurses can help reduce ‘near misses’ and create safer care.”
“At AdventHealth for Women we’re committed to ensuring the best outcomes for our pregnant mothers. We’re national leaders when it comes to pregnancy care and delivery. We got there through the training programs we’ve created, developed and implemented. All of our team members go through our Multi-Professional Obstetrics Simulation Training (M.O.S.T.®) which prepares them for potential emergencies that can occur during childbirth.”
“We also do team huddles during every shift where all team members get together to talk about the patients going into labor, which patients are at risk for emergencies, and what can be done to prevent harm. It’s steps like these that really make us stand out compared to other health systems.”