Comprehensive prenatal and postpartum care is vital in reducing maternal mortality rates in Georgia which are the highest in the country.
Maternal mortality effects countless families across the United States, and Georgia is no exception. A recent study shows Georgia holds the highest maternal mortality rate in the country. Over the past decade, Black women alone have accounted for 66.6 of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in the state. These staggering numbers demonstrate a level of urgency in ensuring women in Georgia receive proper healthcare to maintain a safe and healthy pregnancy.
Dr. Ericka Gibson, Ob/Gyn at Kaiser Permanente of Georgia, discusses in an article below the important details expectant mother should know when pregnant or planning to conceive to ensure better odds of a healthy pregnancy.
Comprehensive prenatal, postpartum care vital in reducing maternal mortality rate in Georgia
By Dr. Ericka Gibson, Ob/Gyn at Kaiser Permanente of Georgia
Maternal mortality, or a pregnancy-related death, is a public health crisis and devastating to families and communities. Although Georgia is a leader in many industries, including agriculture, entertainment, and business, the state unfortunately has the second highest maternal mortality rate in the United States. Although maternal mortality among expectant Georgia mothers has decreased over the last decade, the state’s overall rate remains extremely distressing.
Despite this alarming statistic, there are means and resources to improve the landscape for expectant and new mothers in Georgia through comprehensive prenatal and postpartum care.
Maternal mortality is defined as the annual number of female deaths from any cause related to or aggravated by pregnancy, including deaths while a woman is pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, or up to 12 months after childbirth due to health conditions exacerbated from the effects of pregnancy. A Georgia State University study on the state’s maternal mortality rate from 2011-21 noted that Georgia recorded 46.2 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. The situation is even more dire for the state’s population of Black women, who experienced 66.6 deaths per 100,000 live births from 2011-21.
However, expectant mothers, or those who plan to become pregnant, can take proactive steps to ensure a safe pregnancy, delivery and postpartum recovery.
The first step is choosing the right healthcare provider that can provide a web of care for both mother and baby. For example, Kaiser Permanente’s comprehensive maternity care offers a model of care that incorporates certified nurse-midwives, obstetricians-gynecologists, high-risk pregnancy specialists, maternal-child health nurses, lactation specialists and other care providers that creates a cocoon of support and helps expectant mothers navigate their pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum journey.
Women should be aware of their personal and family medical history before they become pregnant to help their team of medical professionals optimize care for chronic medical conditions, including high blood pressure or diabetes, and better manage conditions while pregnant.
Receiving routine prenatal care is essential in ensuring a safe pregnancy and delivery. A team of healthcare professionals should monitor the health of mother and baby through all three trimesters and postpartum. Routine prenatal care consists of an overall physical exam, ultrasound exams, measurement of vital signs like blood pressure and weight, monitoring of the growth of baby, listening to the baby’s heart rate and routine prenatal labs and screening tests. Regular postpartum care is also necessary, particularly for high-risk mothers who may need additional monitoring after delivery or assistance coordinating additional care with their primary physician or specialists.
Educating expectant mothers on normal body changes with pregnancy, warning signs during and after pregnancy, preparing mothers and families for labor, childbirth, breastfeeding, and the emotional, mental and social challenges that come with a new baby are also crucial factors in prenatal care.
Along with thorough maternity care, an expectant mother can help reduce her own pregnancy risks by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, an important element in lowering the risk of some complications of pregnancy. This includes receiving regular prenatal care, maintaining a healthy diet and weight, and prioritizing mental health.
It is also essential for expectant mothers to create a support network comprised of their partner, family, friends and fellow expectant parents-to-be to offer assistance, guidance and advice throughout pregnancy and after delivery. This support system, along with access to trained behavioral health specialists, can help the mother advocate for herself and make sure that her concerns are addressed. This safety net can also help ensure stress, depression or other mental health factors faced during pregnancy can be managed.
The Georgia State University study acknowledges race and social detriments of health as a contributing factor in the disproportionately higher maternal mortality rate in Black women, even when education and income are considered. Expanding the cocoon around pregnant women to include social workers, case managers and community navigators can help to address social barriers to care.
While the current maternal mortality rate in Georgia paints a bleak picture, the positive takeaway is this landscape can be vastly improved. Creating a support system around pregnant patients and their families with an extensive network of physicians, specialists and education is a giant step toward reducing the maternal mortality rate and creating a better care experience for expectant and new mothers.