America’s pregnancy wards have battled a quiet epidemic for the past 20 years. Rates of maternal mortality, a mother’s death during pregnancy, have doubled since the turn of the century. Research indicates that these deaths are directly related to heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.
The American Heart Association (AHA) addressed this health issue in a statement released in early 2020. Chaired by Dr. Laxmi Mehta, the statement calls for increased pre-pregnancy care and counseling. Without increased treatment, pre-existing cardiovascular conditions can severely endanger the health of the child.
The underdeveloped field of cardio-obstetrics
Dr. Mehta serves as the director of Preventative Cardiology and Women’s Cardiovascular Health at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Along with the AHA, she calls for more hospitals to include cardio-obstetrics birthing teams. Working together, these teams can create comprehensive birthing plans for at-risk mothers with pre-existing conditions. Alongside heart disease, conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and advanced maternal age contribute to maternal death and birth injuries like pre-term birth, pre-eclampsia and chronic hypertension. These new medical teams can help save the lives of mothers and their newborn children.
Cardio-obstetrics teams include several field-specific experts, including geneticists, obstetricians, pharmacists, cardiologists, nurses, and counselors. These experts work together to build extensive preconception birthing plans to help mothers manage their health before, during and after pregnancy.
Pregnancy tests the heart’s strength
“Pregnancy can put a lot of stress on the body, especially the heart,” says Dr. Mehta. During the first trimester, the heart rate increases while blood pressure drops. In the second and third trimesters, both the blood pressure and heart rate increase and remain elevated until after birth. This strain causes many mothers to develop pre-eclampsia, increasing their risk of heart failure in their lifetime.
Is it time to set a new medical standard?
If a doctor neglected to account for your pre-existing conditions in your birth plan, you might be able to seek legal recourse. You can bring your questions to a local attorney familiar with medical malpractice and birth injuries.