I recently published a blog post about a mama that died in childbirth and at the end made a plea on behalf of the family that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to a neonatal intensive care unit in the mama’s name. I also added a post to our Facebook page announcing yet another donation to Better Bedrest. Someone just sent me a note asking why I am always asking for support, financial support in particular, for pregnant women.
We live in the United States, a country without federally subsidized health care-despite spending more than any other country in the world for health care. The US one of only a few countries that offers no paid maternity leave. In the US, as much as in many developing and impoverished countries, many women don’t have access to or receive the medical care that they need. Sadly (and I feel shamefully) this affects women of color and women of lower socioeconomic status disproportionally.
It has been well documented by Amnesty International, the World Health Organization (WHO) and others that we have some of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world. These organizations have called on the United States to implement programs and services to lower these rates and to support women’s health. To date we have not heeded this call. We have not lowered maternal mortality, it has continued to rise. Our cesarean section rate is 32%, far higher than the 5-10% recommended by WHO. Amnesty Internationals written report, Deadly Delivery shows that it is safer for women to have their babies in other parts of the world than in the US. For example, the likelihood of a woman dying in childbirth in the USA is five times greater than in Greece, four times greater than in Germany, and three times greater than in Spain.
Health officials set bench marks for health care quality improvement back in the early 2000′s with Healthy People 2010. We achieved few if any of our benchmarks outlined for maternity care for Healthy People 2010 and are setting similar goals for Healthy People 2020.
But while all this is going on in the world of public health and public policy, mamas nationwide continue to struggle. They struggle to maintain their health and the health of their babies. They struggle to maintain their jobs. The struggle to make ends meet. They struggle to feed their families.
It seems to me that sometimes we blame mamas for their struggles. “They should not have gotten pregnant, they do have choices you know.” (But don’t get an abortion!) “Why didn’t they use birth control?” (Despite the fact that birth control is often one of the first benefits cut from insurance policies when money is tight and is not routinely covered by all insurance carriers in general) “They should go after the baby’s father for support” (who may be unemployed, incarcerated or working and helping support mama and their children already and still they can’t make ends meet! Also many women have no access to legal representation) . Yes, mamas should be doing more. Sigh.
I believe it’s more beneficial to help mamas than to blame them. Most mamas that I come to know are working and doing their best to support their children (With or without the support of a partner or spouse). A bed rest prescription or a premature infant creates a financial burden for mamas and their families and that is why many organizations are trying to help.
Hopefully, one day the United States will provide safe, low intervention, evidenced-based, mother friendly health care and support to all women of childbearing age-regardless of race or socioeconomic status. This will include access to family planning. Advances have been made towards this goal, but like anything else requiring a change, the shifts come slowly. Until that time, we mamas will continue to support one another and do our best to fill in the gaps. That is why Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond exists. That is why Better Bedrest exists and why we wholeheartedly support this sister organization.
This is the last planned blog post for 2010, but we want to reiterate that there is still time for you to make a tax deductible donation to Better Bedrest to help pregnant mamas on bed rest in financial need. You can also send donations to the Johns Hopkins NICU’s in memory of Shawnee Nicole Mitchell-Wright(the mama who died in childbirth) here. (Be sure to fill out tribute information at the bottom and to check the box that says “mail a letter on my behalf”)
Blessings to you and yours for a safe, healthy and prosperous 2011!
“Every pregnant woman beyond the first trimester and who will be pregnant through flu season should take the flu shot?”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Whether or not to take the flu shot, or any shots for that matter, has become quite controversial in American culture. The CDC, ACOG and other medical governing bodies recommend that pregnant women who will be pregnant during the flu season receive the flu shot not only to protect themselves, but to also protect their unborn babies while in utero and for up to 6 months post partum.
However, many citizens and now even some clinicians question the practice of introducing disease into the body as a way of disease prevention. Many parents have made the decision not to immunize themselves or their children, their decisions based on the belief that Thimerosal, a preservative put into may vaccines to prolong their shelf life and potency, is harmful and a major contributor to the rising number of children developing autism. Opponents of preventive vaccination also believe that the body, when properly nourished and functioning properly, has the ability to ward off the diseases that immunizations are designed to prevent.
While the “healthy” human adult with a competent immune system is typically able to ward off most diseases, a pregnant woman’s immune system is compromised due to the pregnancy and hence not as able to ward off diseases. Opponents of vaccinations say that pregnancy is not a pathological state and that pregnant women should not be viewed as “ill”. This is true. But one cannot deny the fact that a pregnant woman’s immune system is taxed. Not only is it responsible for protecting the pregnant woman, it is also responsible for protecting the growing fetus. Pregnancy taxes the immune system, stretching its resources so that pregnant women aren’t able to illicit as strong an immune response to diseases as they can when they aren’t pregnant. For this reason, many pregnant women will see flares in chronic conditions such as asthma, arthritis or other chronic conditions which may have been stable for months or even years prior to becoming pregnant. They are also more susceptible to illnesses such as the flu, often developing more severe or even deadly cases.
An impromptu poll of pregnant women shows that they are split about 50/50 for taking the flu shot. It’s interesting to note that women were not at all wishy washy. They either were firm in their decision to take the shot or they were firm in their decision not to take it, so whether or not to take the flu shot is clearly a polarizing issue. The Swine flu was a major determinant for several women. Some women took the flu shot because they were concerned about the severity of the flu that the Swine Flu created. Other women steered clear of this year’s flu shot particularly because it contained Swine Flu. A maternal fetal medicine specialist weighed in stating that after reading the medical literature on the flu shot and treating 2 patients with Swine Flu last year, he recommends the flu shot for all of his patients. On the other hand, a holistic practitioner strengthens her clients’ immune systems with herbs, aromatherapy, homeopathy and other natural remedies.
So what is a pregnant woman to do if she is advised to receive a flu shot but really isn’t sure if she wants to do so? I say, learn all that she can to educate herself and make as informed a decision as possible. www.cdc.gov has a lot of information about the flu shot and pregnant women. She should have a frank discussion with her clinician and perhaps even an immunologist, see what alternative treatments are available and then decide of the flu shot is for her.
She has to consider her health history. Does she have a strong immune system? Does she usually get the flu when she isn’t pregnant? Does she have any chronic diseases that, combined with pregnancy, leave her at increased risk for developing a severe case of the flu if she is exposed? Is she allergic to any of the compounds that make up the flu shot? (My daughter is allergic to eggs and although her allergist felt that her titers were low enough for her to take the flu shot, she became deathly ill, had a major asthma attack and required prednisone to recover (which took about 2 weeks!). )
If a mama to be has taken the flu shot in the past, how has she fared? Does she get sick from the shot? I personally get deathly ill whenever I take the flu shot, but when I was pregnant and received the flu shot, it was the one time in my life that I didn’t get sick from the shot.
Finally, I suggest that pregnant women and people in general consider the ramifications of not taking the flu shot. But some of our parents and most likely many of our grandparents and great grandparents (if they are living) may remember what it was like when the flu pandemic hit in the early 1900′s (From 1917 to 1920). Then the culprit was the Spanish Flu and it claimed some 50 to 100 million lives world wide. This flu was different in that it struck healthy, young adults whereas the typical flu affects the very young, the very old and those with compromised immune systems. Some scientists have stated that the Swine Flu has many similar characteristics of the Spanish flu of the early 1900′s.
People in our generation have never really been exposed to major disease outbreaks because in general, people in our culture are well immunized. Some people “gloat” that they don’t immunize their children, but their children are protected by “herd immunity”; with most other people immunized, the diseases that once claimed many young lives are virtually non-existent in our culture. However, it has to be noted that with people choosing to forgo immunizations, we are seeing the resurgence of measles, rubella and other childhood diseases we had once thought we had eradicated.
Whether or not to receive a flu shot is a decision every pregnant mama, not just mamas on bed rest, has to decide for herself and her baby. Take the time to do a bit of research, look at the evidence, consider your health history and talk with your provider about whether or not receiving a flu shot will benefit you or cause you harm. In the end, the best decision is one that is made based on the evidence and after strong consideration of all possible variables.
It is with a very heavy heart that I write this blog post. I just received notice that a mama died in childbirth. Shawnee Nicole Mitchell-Wright was a young mother with a 2 year old daughter at home. She and her husband were eagerly awaiting the birth of their second child. On Friday December 10, 2010, she gave birth to a healthy baby but lost her life in the process.
This story is devastating on so many levels. First, there is a mama that will never see her baby, hold her baby, never nurse and nurture her baby, and will never see her baby grow and become the awesome person that God created this little life to be.
There is a baby that will never know its mama; will never feel the love, comfort and touch that only mama can give.
There is a 2 year old little girl who will never see her mama again. She will ask over and over again, “Where’s mommy? When’s Mommy coming home?” And she will have to somehow come to understand that mommy isn’t ever coming home. She’ll go through so many moments in life without her mama, pivotal moments of growing up and changing into a young woman; getting her period, first crushes, first dates, going to college, career and marriage choices-all these events and more without the example and support of her mom. I’m just in tears thinking about this.
And then there is Ralph, Nicole’s husband. This poor dear man may have witnessed both extreme joy and unimaginable sorrow in a matter of moments. Being present to witness the birth of his child, he may have very likely watched as his wife slipped away simultaneously. All the love that they shared, all the plans that they had made for their family, all the hopes, all the dreams….gone in a matter of moments.
All two weeks before Christmas.
I don’t know the circumstances surrounding Shawnee’s death. I don’t know if she experienced complications during her pregnancy. I do know that she was a neonatal intensive care nurse at John’s Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore Maryland. I know that she was an African American Mama, and a member of my national moms group, Mocha Moms. And now, she is a statistic.
In April, researchers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle published data showing that the US maternal mortality rate had risen from 12-17/100,000 live births annually in the United States. Alarmingly Amnesty International in their report Deadly Delivery notes that the maternal mortality rate for African American women in the United States is 32.7 deaths per 100,000 pregnancies while it is only 9.5/100,000 for Caucasian women. They are calling on the Obama Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services in particular, to establish an Office of Maternal Health to address these health care disparities. I hope to see this established soon, but with the incoming congress I am not as optimistic it will happen sooner rather than later. But happen it must. The US must address the rising maternal and infant mortality rates in this country.
Still, none of this means anything to the Mitchell-Wright family. Their mama is still gone and Christmas time will be forever marred by her loss. Pray for this family. Pray especially those children who will grow up without their mama. We wish them all peace in this most difficult holiday season.
If you feel so lead to make a donation in Shawnee Nicole Mitchell-Wright’s memory, the family has asked that donations be made to one of the 2 neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) where Shawnee worked. Donations can be mailed to:John’s Hopkins Bayview Development Center 1627 A Thames Street Baltimore MD 21231
Donations can also be submitted online at https://www.ummsfoundation.org/SSLPage.aspx?pid=340
(be sure to fill out tribute information at the bottom and to check the box that says “mail a letter on my behalf”).