Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Why Are Our Pregnant Women Dying?

By Rakhi Dimino, MD
Medical Director of Operations, OB Hospitalist Group
Member, TMA Council on Science and Public Health

The United States is one of the few developed countries in the world where the rate of maternal mortality is increasing. More women are dying during pregnancy and delivery in the United States than before. This should raise shock and concern among our pregnant patients and the medical community caring for them. Although the overall numbers are low, in a country where access to excellent health care is becoming more achievable, we should be working harder to address this.

The major causes of maternal death are blood clots, postpartum hemorrhage, and pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure in pregnancy) complications. Many of these complications occur in the immediate hours or days after delivery while the new mom may still be in the hospital. Some of these deaths are prior to delivery but after the mom is emergently brought to the hospital.

One of the most successful ways to reduce the number of deaths is to reduce the time it takes an experienced obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-Gyn) to evaluate and treat the mother. Traditionally, a private OB-Gyn who takes care of a patient prenatally and during the delivery does not stay in the hospital 24 hours a day. This creates a lag time between the onset of the emergency and the arrival of the OB-Gyn coming  to the hospital from home or elsewhere.

Across Texas today, more and more hospitals and maternity units are using obstetrical hospitalists who are experienced in obstetrical emergencies and are in the hospital 24/7 to react immediately to any emergency and assist a private OB-Gyn once he or she arrives. When an emergency arises, this removal of the lag time has greatly increased safety for mothers and newborns and improved overall outcomes. Talk to your OB-Gyn or your hospital about the availability of OB hospitalists in your area.

Dr. Dimino is a Houston OB-Gyn and Medical Director of Operations for OB Hospitalist Group.

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