Pregnancy, while one of the most joyous times in a woman’s life, is also one of the most physically and physiologically stressful times. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that pregnancy fundamentally changes a woman’s body; some women will gain as much as half of their pre-pregnancy weight during their pregnancies. Others will develop gestational diabetes, pregnancy induced hypertension or, in more severe cases peripartum cardiomyopathy (enlargement of the heart) or kidney failure. During pregnancy, the body increases its blood volume by 50 to better be able to nourish the growing fetus and maintain mama. Most women will “sail” through their pregnancies, labors and deliveries, have healthy children and will “live happily ever after”. Others won’t be so lucky and they or their children will perish from primarily preventable forms of heart disease.
Cardiovascular (heart) disease is a leading cause of death in the United States. A recent article published in Obstetrics and Gynecology reports that researchers in Illinois found that from 2000-2011, nearly 20% of all maternal deaths were heart related, Here is what they found:
- Most of the deaths occurred in the third trimester or within 6 weeks of the post partum period.
- Most of the heart related problems happened in women ages 30-39, while the most severe cases occurred in women over 40.
- Cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart)in pregnancy is a rare cardiac occurrence, is almost exclusively caused by pregnancy and occurs more often in young women, 20-29 years.
- Death from cardiomyopathy is more likely to happen in very young women, less than 20 years old.
- Black women have significantly higher rates of pregnancy related heart disease compared to White or Hispanic women.
- 28% of all of the deaths were potentially preventable.
Yes, you read that last bullet point correctly. Twenty eight percent of the cardiovascular deaths that occurred during or just after pregnancy in the Illinois report were potentially preventable deaths! So what should you, as a Mama on Bedrest do to protect her heart?
- Schedule and maintain your regular prenatal visits. Early detection and early action are the hallmarks of treatment success for any disease, but especially cardiovascular disease during pregnancy.
- Notify your health care provider immediately if you notice any heart palpitations, difficulty breathing, unusual swelling in the hands, feet, face, changes in urine output. Now this may be difficult as you are likely experiencing all of these symptoms as a result of your pregnancy. Suffice it to say that if you have an increase in any of the symptoms or if they suddenly occur where they didn’t previously exist, then consult your health care provider.
- INSIST ON FOLLOW UP AFTER YOU HAVE YOUR BABY!! One of the key points that came out of the points that came out of the Illinois study is that most of the heart disease related deaths occurred after 6 weeks post partum. Many women have their post partum follow up visits with their obstetricians and then don’t return for a year or unless there are other issues. If you had a problem, even a minor problem during your pregnancy, FOLLOW UP FOR UP TO A YEAR POST PARTUM. Many conditions will “flare” with the fluctuation of hormones during the post partum, i.e. get worse, so you want to be closely monitoring for symptoms.
It is imperative that mamas receive comprehensive care of cardiac problems and are fully treated to avoid-or at least mitigate-heart problems in the future. Thankfully not all mamas who have heart problems will die, but many will have life long problems as a result of incomplete care. Be sure to have ongoing follow up and let all subsequent providers know that you experienced heart problems while you were pregnant.
The authors also note that providers must do a better job of
- educating their patients about the signs and symptoms of cardiovascular disease
- referring patients immediately to specialists when problems occur
- continuing to monitor their patients’ conditions well into the post partum period, as long as a year post partum.
As this article clearly states, death from cardiovascular complications is very often preventable. Patients and physicians alike must be aware of the signs and symptoms of cardiovascular disease and both must have a low threshold for seeking evaluation; patients from their obstetricians, physicians from their specialists colleagues. Finally, it is imperative that women who developed cardiovascular symptoms during or just after pregnancy be evaluated for an extended time in the post partum, often up to one year post partum.
What is it like to have a pregnancy related heart problem? Hear a mamas story.
Have you experienced a heart problem during your pregnancy? Please share your story.
If you have more questions, email email@example.com
September is Infant Mortality Awareness month and on Saturday, September 24, 2016, Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond and her supporters will walk from Seton Medical Center in Austin to The Dell Seton Medical School at the University of Texas to raise awareness of Black Infant Mortality. Why are we walking?
From 2000 to 2013, The National Vital Statistics Report shows the infant mortality rate (IMR) declined nationally, yet there remains a persistent 2—3 fold disparity in IMR of black infants compared to their white and hispanic counterparts. Texas follows this trend with an IMR of 5.8 overall in 2013. But looking at specific data from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services for 2013, while the overall IMR was 5.8 deaths per 1000 births, the IMR of black infants statewide was 11.9 deaths per 1000 births. The picture gets even gloomier if we look at Travis County. In 2012 (the last year for which data has been compiled) the IMR for black infants was 13.6 deaths per 1000 births, 2.85 times the death rate of white infants. In 2013, the disparity ratio for IMR of black infants to all infants in Texas was 3.02, or black infants are 3.02 times more likely to die before their first birthday than infants of other races here in Travis County.
Austin/Travis County is the state capital and one of the wealthiest counties in the state. Yet since 2000 Austin/Travis County has failed in its attempts to improve birth outcomes and survival rates for black infants to match those of infants of other races. The IMR for 2013 actually represents an increase in IMR from previous data.
The Call to Action
We believe that an IMR of 6.0 deaths per 1000 or less is attainable for black infants in Travis County, just as it has been attained for infants of other races. Here are 6 steps we could initiate to make this possible:
- Strongly encourage the Texas Legislature to take the Medicaid Expansion funds allotted for the state by the Affordable Care Act. This alone would insure another 1.3 million Texans, many of them women and infants, and give more access to comprehensive prenatal care, post natal and pediatric care.
- Work to increase the number of black health care providers (physicians, nurses, midwives, lactation consultants, childbirth educators and community health workers) in Austin/Travis County.
- Include members of the black community in the conversation about Place Based health initiatives and new treatments (like 17P for the prevention of preterm labor) so that they can make informed decisions about their health care, help educate members of the community and increase utilization.
- An aggressive community outreach campaign which includes community gatherings for conversations, presentations at churches and other community venues and even door to door health information and health education efforts by members of the community.
- Educate and elevate. Black citizens in Travis County are not looking for a handout, but a hand up. When information is presented in a clear and understandable way, people are more receptive, more apt to listen and more likely to act.
- Support initiatives that will help restore the infrastructure in the black community such as improved schools, jobs, affordable housing, safe and affordable childcare, additional security, public transportation and grocery stores.
What are you doing to raise awareness about Black Infant Mortality? Share your thoughts and events in our comments section below.
For more information about our walk or to get involved, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The National Vital Statistics Report, Volume 64, Number 9. August 6, 2015
The Office of Minority Health and Health Equity, Infant Mortality for the State of Texas and Travis County
Great News! “Former” Mama on Bedrest Parijat Deshpande and I are teaming up to bring you this month’s tele seminar, Bust Out of Your Bedrest Blues. As some of you may recall, Parijat is a clinical psychologist who specializes in dealing with the stress of infertility, high risk pregnancy, prematurity and family stress. A few weeks ago, she graciously joined me for an interview to describe her method for helping mamas deal with stress around high risk pregnancy and bed rest. Well, we both had tele seminars scheduled to address tips and techniques for dealing with Bedrest Blues. When we realized that we were both going to be talking about the same thing, we decided to come together and have one big open conversation.
So Mamas, join us for a frank and informative discussion and Bust out of Your Bedrest Blues!!
NOTE: This seminar will serve as the Third Thursday Teleseminar. The live tele seminar will be on Wednesday, March 18th, 2pm ET, 1pm CT and 11am PT. Click here to register and to receive call in information.
For those of you unable to attend the live tele seminar on Wednesday, March 18, 2015, the recorded tele seminar will be available on Thursday, March 19th. If you have a question and cannot attend the live tele seminar, or don’t want to submit your question live, feel free to submit your question to email@example.com and Parijat and I will answer your question during the call.
This is a unique opportunity to have two experts at your service to answer your questions about bed rest and the stress associated with bed rest. Don’t miss out! Submit your questions and join us on Wednesday, March 18, 2015, 2pm ET, 1pm CT and 11 PT.