A journey of hope and healing after a decade of infertility and two maternal near-misses.

Improving Maternal Health and Safety

On January 23, 2018, New Jersey families will be one step closer to having increased maternal health awareness, helping to ensure that fewer woman will lose their lives or experience catastrophic illness as a result of pregnancy or childbirth. All hospitals, healthcare providers, professional associations and New Jersey residents are invited to participate in the campaign to raise awareness regarding the rise in the incidence of maternal deaths in the United States. According to the Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 1993 and 2013 (the most recent year reported), maternal mortality rates have increased nearly 56% in the U.S. Unfortunately, New Jersey is not immune to some of the same issues that we see across the country. By creating what appears to be the first Maternal Health Awareness Day in the nation, the state is recognizing the importance of ensuring all women have safe pregnancies and proactively helping women and their families by empowering women’s voices throughout the birth process, providing increased education for women and their family members and implementing safety bundles through New Jersey’s participation in the national Alliance for Innovation for MaternalHealth (AIM). As a two-time Maternal Near-Miss Survivor, I am proud to support Maternal Health Awareness Day by co-hosting a Blood Drive with Woodside Chapel Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) to send more families home as healthy as possible.”

The genesis of Maternal Health Awareness Day began six years ago when Tara Hansen, a healthy 29 year old, died six days after giving birth to her first child from an infection that went unnoticed and uncontrolled. Tara’s husband, Ryan, created the Tara Hansen Foundation in 2012 and has been working ever since to raise maternal health awareness and to improve communication between patients, healthcare providers and family members. “Tara was the only person who knew that something was wrong and she repeatedly told those caring for her,” explains Hansen. “But all clinicians assumed Tara’s problems were part of her having just given birth. Asking providers to Stop, Look, and Listen! when a woman says that something is wrong can help to save lives.”

The Tara Hansen Foundation, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, along with the New Jersey Section of The American Congress of Obstetriciansand Gynecologists (ACOG), the New Jersey Obstetrical and Gynecological Society, the Association of Women’s Health Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN), theNew Jersey Affiliate of the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM) actively supported the Stop, Look and Listen! initiative and the development of a Maternal Health Awareness Day in New Jersey for January 23 of each year. These groups met with State Senator Joseph Vitale in June 2016 to ask his support and he agreed. The proclamation for Maternal Health Awareness Day in New Jersey was signed by Governor Christie on May 11, 2017.

“The objective is to increase maternal health awareness for all residents of the state including providers of women’s healthcare services, the general public, legislators, insurance company executives and other interested parties,” explained Joseph Apuzzio, MD, vice chair of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “It was apparent from our discussions at the New Jersey Maternal Mortality Meetings that our detailed reports which included recommendations and suggested improvements for the more common pregnancy related maternal death issues often went unacted upon.”

Members of the New Jersey Multidisciplinary Maternal Mortality Review Committee have also sought ways to decrease maternal mortality in New Jersey. The committee voiced concern that maternal health awareness and problems such as pregnancy related and pregnancy associated morbidity and mortality are often not on the “radar screen” of providers of obstetrical services, the general public, family members, legislators and insurance companies. That all consider pregnancy a happy event for all and don’t think about potential problems. So The Tara Hansen Foundation initiative was supported by the committee and the multidisciplinary professional associations. “I cannot overstate the importance of empowering women’s voices in the management of their healthcare,” states Gloria A. Bachmann, MD, director of the Women’s Health Institute at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “We have worked very hard to bring awareness to this issue which is now being embraced by the professional organizations, the community, and the hospitals.”

“Community awareness of this issue is vital. As they say, it takes a village, and we believe that everyone plays a role to ensure a healthy pregnancy” states Robyn D'Oria CEO of the Central Jersey Family Health Consortium. None of this would have been possible without their support and the support of the New Jersey Hospital Association. The foundational work they have done in the maternal health arena has helped to make this statewide initiative viable by facilitating all participants across health systems and across the health professions to come together in the best interests of women and their families.

Are you ready to join the Maternal Health movement? It is as simple as rolling up your sleeve to donate blood. Please consider joining us at the Blood Drive or visit another collection location near you. Let’s make January 23rd a day that helps to change the course of Maternal Health in the U.S.

*Research and quotes used with permission from the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.  #123forMOMS

About the Author: Casey Cattell struggled with infertility for more than a decade before giving birth to her son, Nathan, in 2015. She is a two time Maternal Near Miss Survivor writing to give hope to women in the throes of hardship that challenge their faith. She also enjoys sharing her latest creative exploits. Casey and her husband live in the Northeast, USA and in their downtime like to explore new places and hike with their young son. If you liked this post or were encouraged by it, please consider passing it on. Find Casey on Instagram and Twitter.

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