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    A Call to Action – Improve Maternal Health

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | December 6th, 2020

    A Call to Action – Improve Maternal Health

    I was planning to write on a different topic, however when the Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams issued a Call to Action to Improve Maternal Health this past week, I immediately thought of Dr. Chaniece Wallace, the pediatrician who died on October 22nd after giving birth to her first child and switched gears. I read the 71- page document and wanted to share some of the content with you.

    In the introduction, Dr. Adams wrote the following:

    “The death of a woman from pregnancy-related causes is one of the greatest tragedies that can befall a family and a community…We cannot truly address maternal health…without acknowledging the disparate outcomes many women of color face. For example, black and American-Indian/Alaska Native women die from pregnancy-related causes at two to three times that of their white, Asian Pacific Islander, and Hispanic counterparts… In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that two out of three pregnancy –related deaths are considered preventable…The health of our nation depends on the health of our mothers…Every single one of us has a unique role to play. By working together we can support moms, save lives, and set the foundation for a healthier nation.”

    What struck me was the comment – Every single one of us has a unique role to play. If you are a frequent reader of this blog, that comment is not new.  In the document, he provides action plans for different groups of people. Below is the plan for women and families:

    FOCUS ON IMPROVING OVERALL HEALTH – Try to engage in healthy behaviors and practices by participating in regular physical activity, eating healthy, getting adequate sleep, and getting ongoing preventive care that include immunization and dental care. Abstain from tobacco and other potentially harmful substances, including marijuana, prior and during pregnancy.  Women who are planning to become pregnant should take a daily folic acid supplement.

    PROMOTE POSITIVE INVOLVEMENT OF MEN AS FATHERS/PARTNERS DURING PREGNANCY, CHILDBIRTH, AND AFTER DELIVERY.

    ATTEND HEALTH CARE APPOINTMENTS – Women should attend primary care, prenatal, postpartum, and any recommended specialty care visits and provide health information, including pregnancy history and complications, to their health care providers during all medical care visits, even in the years following delivery.  Know health numbers, such as blood pressure and body weight, and record them at each visit.

    COMMUNICATE WITH HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS – Ask questions and talk to your health care professional about health concerns, including any symptoms you experience, past health problems or concerns about potentially sensitive issues, such as intimate partner violence and substance abuse.(My comments –  Let me remind you, your health care provider cannot read minds. If you are not comfortable talking to your provider or you feel that your provider is not listening to you, then it is probably time to find another provider.)

    LEARN HOW TO IDENTIFY PHYSICAL AND MENTAL WARNING SIGNS DURING AND AFTER PREGNANCY – The CDC’s Hear Her campaign seeks to raise awareness of warning signs, empower women to speak up and raise concerns, and encourage their support systems and providers to engage with them in life-saving conversations.

    ENGAGE IN HEALTHY BEHAVIORS IN THE POSTPARTUM PERIOD – If electing to breastfeed, seek support as needed. Attend your postpartum visits. Continue engaging in healthy behaviors after pregnancy, such as managing chronic disease and living a healthy lifestyle.

    At the end of his report, Dr. Adams states – As the strategies and actions in this Call to Action make clear, each of us has a critical role to play in improving maternal health and reversing unacceptable rates of maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity in the United States. This will provide the best opportunity for all women to have a safe passage through pregnancy and set a sustained course for their health and the health of future generations.

    The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Improve Maternal Health

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    The book discusses common gynecological and women’s health issues in a series of witty and entertaining letters. These letters, all educational, offer suggestions on what approaches to take in tackling the medical problems that typically bring women to an ob/gynecologist. The letters are spiced with art, a poem and quotes. Although its emphasis is on gynecology and women’s health, it touches on some other medical issues that make women visit their doctors.

    The second half of the book briefly discusses the most common gynecological conditions and also provides an overview of sexually transmitted infections. A list of annotated websites dealing with the different topics in the book is provided for the reader who wants to pursue each subject in depth.




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