For many pregnant persons in the U.S., they have a baby or babies in the hospital and then go home after a day or two. Once a person has been discharged from the hospital, though, it does not mean that health is back to normal, and the potential risks are over. On the contrary! For up to a year after a person gives birth, their health should be closely monitored. In particular, potentially life-threatening warning signs during and after pregnancy should be discussed with a medical professional to educate the pregnant and postpartum patient on what to look for.
According to the CDC, “Over 700 women die each year in this country from problems related to pregnancy or delivery complications. Every death is a tragedy, especially when we know that two thirds of pregnancy-related deaths could be prevented. As many as 50,000 women experience severe, unexpected health problems related to pregnancy that may have long-term health consequences.”
As a result, the CDC has created a campaign around this topic called the “Hear Her Campaign”- a vitally important campaign because if we know the warning signs to watch for, we know what should be discussed with a medical provider and when to seek immediate care. The pregnant and postpartum body goes through many changes, and sometimes certain signs and symptoms might be overlooked simply because we do not realize they are abnormal or life-threatening. This is especially true in those first few weeks at home with a new baby.
Today we are going to discuss these potentially life-threatening maternal warning signs. In my discussion with Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist, Dr. Chinedu Nwabuobi @perinatalcaremd, we reviewed the CDC Hear Her Campaign, urgent maternal warning signs, and maternal mortality and racial/ethnic disparities.
2:28- A headache that won’t go away or gets worse over time
5:48- Changes in vision (baseline vision such as all of a sudden having blurry vision, floaters)
8:25- Preeclampsia vision changes
10:34- Fever of 100.4 in pregnancy or postpartum
13:13- Sepsis in pregnancy
14:24- EXTREME swelling of the hands and feet
17:34- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
23:52- Trouble breathing or having to sit up to sleep
26:14- Chest pain or fast beating heart
28:47- Reflux causing chest pain
30:25- Severe nausea and vomiting
33:11- Thyroid storm
33:46- Severe abdominal pain that doesn’t go away
37:20- If baby isn’t moving like it should
37:34- Vaginal leakage or bleeding during pregnancy (should always call a doctor)
37:50- Increased vaginal bleeding after giving birth
38:18- Maternal mortality (what providers can do to reduce maternal mortality)
44:23- How patients can advocate for themselves
45:15- Acknowledging equitable healthcare and acknowledging provider bias (for providers)
Pregnant persons, partners and family members of pregnant persons, and medical providers should all we aware of the urgent maternal warning signs. Together, if we know what to look for, know when to talk to our doctors and when to tell others about what we are experiencing, then we can work to reduce maternal mortality.
Shannon M. Clark, MD, MMS is a double board certified ObGyn and Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist, and founder of Babies After 35. In her roles as a clinician, educator and researcher at UTMB-Galveston, she focuses on the care of people with maternal and/or fetal complications of pregnancy. Dr. Clark has taken a special interest in pregnancy after the age of 35, which according to age alone, is considered a high-risk pregnancy.
Follow Shannon on TikTok @tiktokbabydoc, Facebook @babiesafter35, and Instagram @babiesafter35.
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