September 8, 2021
COLUMBUS, Ohio – A new statement issued today by the American Heart Association recommends policy approaches for improving health outcomes for women before, during and after pregnancy and addresses maternal health care inequities.
Dr. Laxmi Mehta, a cardiologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine in the College of Medicine, is lead author of the policy statement, supported by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine. The statement was published today in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.
“The tragic irony is that moms are typically in charge of the health for everyone in their family, yet they are dying due to lack of the right kind of care at the moment they need it the most,” said Mehta, director of Preventative Cardiology and Women’s Cardiovascular Health at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. “The U.S. is an outlier when it comes to implementing science-backed policies that improve health for moms.”
The United States has the highest maternal mortality rates among developed countries, according to the statement. Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes, accounting for about one out of three pregnancy-related deaths. U.S. maternal mortality rates have more than doubled to an estimated 700 deaths a year since data collection began in 1987. The rates of severe maternal morbidity, which are unexpected outcomes of labor and delivery that have significant short- or long-term consequences to a woman’s health, have increased about 200%, from 49.5 in 1933 to 144 in 2014.
The policy statement, Call to Action: Maternal Health and Saving Mothers, noted pregnancy-related mortality rates for non-Hispanic Black and American Indian/Alaska Native women were up to three times that of white women.
“It’s estimated two out of three U.S. pregnancy deaths are preventable,” said Mehta, who is the Sarah Ross Soter Endowed Chair in Women's Cardiovascular Health. “This is alarming. The United States needs to make maternal health a priority in programming, education, research and policy development.”
The policy statement outlined a three-pronged approach for achieving maternal health equity: modernizing maternal health care delivery, addressing disparities and inequities and updating technology and systems.
“Mothers deserve a fair chance to receive the best care to ensure a healthy pregnancy, delivery and life following childbirth. Early intervention is key,” said Mehta, who chaired an American Heart Association statement last year on the effectiveness of a cardio-obstetrics team in managing cardiovascular disease for women before, during and after pregnancy. The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center has a cardio-obstetrics team, which is comprised of obstetricians, cardiologists, anesthesiologists, maternal fetal medicine specialists, geneticists, nurses and pharmacists who work together to develop a comprehensive maternal health approach for managing cardiovascular disease in patients.
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Media contact: Amy Colgan, Amy.Colgan@osumc.edu