Complicated issues require complex solutions and the rise in maternal mortality rate (MMR) is complicated. Public healthcare policy and access to quality pre- and post-natal care is not directly in our hands; legislative public heath policies take time and not everyone agrees on what should be done. But a mother’s health is in her hands to some degree. What can she do to put the odds in her favor to have a healthy baby and protect her body for the long term?
Lose weight if necessary. Obesity carries with it an increased risk of high blood pressure and prediabetes. Even a 10% loss in weight may help her body withstand the stresses that pregnancy and childbirth bring. Obviously losing weight while pregnant is a delicate dance; it’s crucial to emphasize complete nutrition while minimizing calories.
Improve her fitness level. When you look at the physiological causes of MMR, close to 50% could be attributed to cardiovascular or metabolic issues such as prediabetes and hypertension. The more fit a woman is before she becomes pregnant, the lower the risk of those conditions.
Address issues during pregnancy such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia seriously. They can impact a woman after she gives birth and contribute to increased bleeding, dangerously high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular issues. She should follow her physician’s recommendations for lifestyle and medications to address the issues.
Finally, a woman should know as much as she can about what to expect after childbirth. Not just taking care of the baby, but how to take care of her body, and the warning signs that something may not be right. When in doubt, check it out; better an unnecessary phone call than an unnecessary health crisis.
Let’s be practical. The MMR is rising but the risk is still very low at about 21 out 100,000 births in the U.S. If a woman does all she can to take care of herself before and after she gives birth, not only will it reduce the risk of MMR, it will result in healthier babies and mothers as well. That alone is worth the effort.
A reminder for all Insiders: the next conference call is February 13, 2018 at 9 p.m. ET. If you’re not an Insider, this monthly conference call is one of the benefits of membership. Check it out.
What are you prepared to do today?
1. Obstetrics & Gynecology: August 2017;130(2):366–373.