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Do medical professionals take a comprehensive enough approach to preventing maternal deaths?

Postpartum depression

More women are dying today due to maternal mortality and the problem only seems to be getting worse. Lawmakers have been exploring ways to combat this problem, which is more prevalent in the United States than anywhere else in the developed world. Maternal deaths are more multifaceted than we think, according to an article in Slate magazine.

We know the leading causes: preeclampsia (birth-related hypertension), heart disease, bleeding, blood clots, and infections. Medical professionals place a great deal of scrutiny on these causes. They tend to brush off maternal deaths that are not directly related to pregnancy, however.

Maternal death factors to consider

A study conducted by the Illinois Department of Public Health Maternal Mortality Review Committee Working Group compiled data on maternal patients across Illinois between 2002-2011. The statistics show that out of every 100,000 live births:

  • 5.55 deaths due to motor vehicle collisions linked to physical and medical vulnerabilities
  • 4.79 deaths due to homicide linked to domestic abuse
  • 2.34 deaths due to suicide linked to postpartum depression
  • 2.1 deaths due to substance abuse or overdose

Hemorrhages accounted for only 1.75 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, followed by emboli (1.4), preeclampsia or eclampsia (0.88), and sepsis (0.82).

The less-considered causes of maternal death are now being factored into data systems compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency suggests that women continue to receive care for at least one year during postpartum. This should include providing follow-up communication, monitoring for warning signs, and providing care when needed. According to the CDC, roughly one in three pregnancy-related deaths occur between one week and one year after giving birth.

Why a new approach might be critical

As the Slate article discusses, these figures have changed the way one healthcare professional approaches maternal care. She originally administered perinatal depression screening on a secondary basis. The procedure often go lost in a myriad of tasks.  After making depression screening a primary task, the screening rate increased significantly within a month.

The doctor compared the care provided to two of her patients:

  • Patient A: The patient suffered a hemorrhage while giving birth. The medical team quickly stopped the hemorrhaging and provided a blood transfusion. The patient felt better and discharged the next day. The doctor determined that she was no longer in danger.
  • Patient B: The patient gave birth without any complications, but declined to speak to a social worker on the postpartum unit. She was discharged with her baby 48 hours later. She never came to her postpartum checkup. Whether or not she is in danger is remains unknown.

These two contrasting examples demonstrate the importance of taking a comprehensive approach to preventing maternal deaths. Postpartum depression affects about one in ten maternal patients, according to the CDC. Some signs may include intense emotions, crying often, disconnection from loved ones, and worrying about harming a baby.

It's critical that hospitals administer adequate screening for depression before and after the birthing process. If you or a loved one was harmed because your doctor failed to act, an experienced Atlanta birth injury lawyer can help. To learn more, contact Tyrone Law Firm, PC and schedule your free consultation with our legal team.

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