Maternal Death Prevalence & Risk

From the Show: HER
Summary: Maternal mortality rates are rising. Learn what you can do to reduce your risk.
Air Date: 12/19/16
Duration: 24:28
Host: Michelle King Robson and Pam Peeke, MD
Guest Bio: Jennifer Haythe, MD
DrJenniferHaytheDr. Jennifer Haythe is a practicing Cardiologist as well as the Assistant Professor of Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, Co-Director for the Women’s Center for Cardiovascular Health, Director of the Adult Pulmonary Hypertension Center and Director of Cardiac Obstetric Service.

Born in New York City, and raised in both Stamford and Greenwich, Connecticut, Dr. Haythe used her competitiveness and determination as a horseback rider at Greenwich Academy to excel at academics as well. Never one to sit still for long, Dr. Haythe knew early on that a regular desk job would not work for her. Drawing on an early love of science and desire to help others made pursuing a career in the medical field a natural fit.

Dr. Haythe went earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard University, and went on to complete her medical training and residency at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in 2003. Initially planning a career in Pulmonary Critical Care, Dr. Haythe decided to switch to Cardiology after speaking with her mentor Dr. Donna Mancini.

Upon completing a fellowship for congestive-heart failure-cardiac transplants in 2005 (under Dr. Mancini), and cardiovascular diseases fellowship in 2009, Dr. Haythe began practicing at Columbia University Medical Center. Her specialties include pulmonary hypertension, heart failure and cardiac transplant.

Despite Cardiology being a heavily male dominated medical field, Dr. Haythe has become a sought after specialist in New York City, with particular interest in both chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH) and the care of pregnant women with cardiovascular diseases.

Dr. Haythe continues to find her own motivation and determination through the strong patient and family relationships she has forged, and the gratification of helping her patients get a new life with a heart transplant or assist devices, allowing patients to be able to live a full life with their families, as well as helping pregnant women safely deliver children and be able to care for them with post-delivery health care.

Dr. Haythe lives and practices in New York City. When not working, she enjoys an active lifestyle that includes running, boxing and yoga, as well as spending time with her husband, Eli and their two children.
Maternal Death Prevalence & Risk
More women in the United States are dying from pregnancy and childbirth complications today than in recent history. However, maternal mortality is dropping worldwide.

Is the maternal death rate actually higher? Are we just recording it more accurately? Are we including more deaths in this category than before?

The Center for Disease Control defines a pregnancy-related death as one that occurs while the woman is pregnant or within one year of pregnancy termination, regardless of the duration or site of the pregnancy. This doesn’t include any accident or other cause of death.

Fifteen percent of pregnancies occur in women over 35. This number is increasing as fertility options expand and women decide to push back their date of pregnancy. Thirty percent of the 15 percent accounts for the maternal death rate.

Existing Medical Conditions
Obesity and metabolic syndrome up patient risk. High blood pressure and diabetes increase in older women who are pregnant.

Surgical Births
Cesarean sections are more prevalent. A C-section is a major abdominal surgery, increasing risk of infection and blood loss. C-sections account for 32 percent of births. This is becoming a cultural practice and is being used when not medically necessary. Vaginal birth is usually easier on cardiovascular issues than surgical birth.

Heart Disease
Cardiovascular disease is the biggest issue affecting these mothers. This includes preeclampsia, eclampsia, hypertension and heart failure developed during pregnancy. Older women, African American women and women with a hypertensive disorder are more likely to have these cardiovascular issues. 

Ethnic Considerations
African American women are up to three times more likely to die in childbirth than Caucasian women. This may be influenced by access to care. The healthiest pregnancy starts before you get pregnant. Other medical problems can be addressed prior to getting pregnant to improve the future mother’s prospects.

Knowledge is Key
Educating women to know when something is wrong will help. Bleeding, sharp pain, fever, and shortness of breath may indicate a larger problem. Seeking medical attention immediately for these symptoms may help prevent some maternal deaths.

Pregnancy itself puts you at risk. Find a good doctor and a good team. Make sure your blood pressure is under control. Exercise as cleared by your doctor. Follow your doctor’s advice. Take care of yourself. Pay attention to how you feel after having the baby.

Listen in as Dr. Jenn Haythe shares how to reduce risk for maternal death.


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