How to Prevent Pregnancy Complications – A woman dies every 2 minutes from pregnancy complications and during the childbirth process itself. Most of these deaths are preventable. Even here in the U.S., the number of deaths from complications of pregnancy and childbirth has more than doubled in the past 20 years.
I caught up with Dr. Michael Rosenblatt, MD, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Merck & Co. Inc to learn more about how to prevent pregnancy complications. Jennifer Albert is also in on the interview…. Jennifer is an advocate for teaching new moms how to prevent pregnancy complications and suffered a severe complication herself in 2013 while giving birth to her first child.
How to Prevent Pregnancy Complications Interview…
Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – This is something you’d think was from a different time, and long ago. How common is maternal mortality in the U.S. today?
Dr. Rosenblatt – Well, you’re right that we tend to think of it as coming from a different era or from a different geography in the developing world, but actually, it’s a very serious and very real problem here in the United States. We lost almost 1,000 women a year during the period of pregnancy and childbirth. We also have about 60,000 near misses. And, one of the things we’re most distressed about is that while maternal mortality is decreasing around the world, in the United States it’s actually been on the increase. So, it’s doubled over the last 20 years.
Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – What would you attribute this increase to?
Dr. Rosenblatt – Well, I don’t think there’s any single reason, Lisa that is responsible for it. It’s multidefectorial. But it’s certainly associate with poverty, with the inner city, some people don’t have access to healthcare, there may be cultural reasons or language barriers… other reasons why people don’t take advantage of healthcare. So, there are many reasons and that’s why this problem needs to be addressed by many different approaches.
Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – What are the most serious and most common complications that can happen during pregnancy and childbirth? What are the common ones that are making up this massive total of cases?
Dr. Rosenblatt – Well we’re trying to make people aware of the three most common ones and we’ve got a little pnemonic for them… PEP or pep. The first “p” stands for Pre-eclampsia which is the medical term for the kind of runaway high blood pressure that threatens the mom and the baby; the “e” stands for Embolism? which is a blood clot that can move to the lungs; and the third is Post Partum Hemorrhage or the loss of massive quantities of blood around the time of delivery, which is what Jennifer experienced.
Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – What can moms do pre, during, and post pregnancy to prevent these conditions and complications?
Dr. Rosenblatt – Well, there’s several things that we can do. I think the most important thing is to make sure that women get really good prenatal care, that they’re connected to a doctor or healthcare provider in the health system early on in pregnancy, following them and monitoring them. Secondly, it’s important that a woman delivering in a facilty where they’re equipped to handle these rare, very serious complications when they occur, and then those of us… the loved ones around the pregnant woman and the pregnant woman need to be aware that there’s some potential for these complications; particularly these PEP complications. We are advocating there be a PEP talk between the woman and the people who are helping support her during the time of pregnancy so that at the earliest signs of some difficulty, the appropriate medical intervention can occur.
Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – What is Merck for Mothers?
Dr. Rosenblatt: Merck for mothers is a program that we’re very proud of. It’s a big commitment by our company… a ten-year commitment. It’s $500 million dollars over that period of time in which we are going to work to reduce maternal mortality globally and here in the United States. In addition to the money, we have people who work for Merck who are committed to working on this program, people who are volunteering. The problem is so big that we can’t do it all alone so we’re doing it collaboratively with governments, not-for-profit organizations, and we’re providing education as well and part of that is the PEP talk that I just referred to.
Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – The education is so important. Jennifer, what happened to you was very scary. Can you share your story with us?
Jennifer Albert – Sure. I had a very healthy pregnancy, but I almost died during delivery. I suffered from post-partum hemorrhage. One of the doctors told me that the blood that I lost was equivalent to that of a triple gunshot victim. I had 17 blood tranfusions which was almost double the amount of blood in my entire body. I woke up in the ICU and I was intubated. My family was traumatized. Because of the amount of blood that I lost, my vitals were so dangerously low that it was touch and go for several days.
Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – What would you tell other moms about what you learned… was there anything that could have been done differently?
Jennifer Albert – I don’t know that anything could have been done differently because noone could have expected that this would happen, but I would definitely tell moms to be as informed as possible, make sure to ask lots of questions… constantly be asking questions, talk to your doctor, don’t be afraid to speak up if something doesn’t feel right. Try to have an advocate with you throughout the process. And, plan to give birth at a facility that’s equipped to handle all different types of emergencies.
Search WebMD to learn more about how to prevent pregnancy complications.