The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) just released guidelines advising all OBs in this country to change the way they care for mothers in the 3 month period following childbirth. Instead of the traditional 6 week postpartum visit, the new guidelines recommend seeing all mothers no more than 3 weeks following childbirth, or within 3 days if the mother had severe hypertension during pregnancy, childbirth or immediately following. ACOG also recommends a 12 week final visit that assesses the mother’s overall health and well-being, with attention focused on future family planning, sexual issues, and emotional stability. ACOG’s guidelines also urge OBs to discuss the long term risks associated with certain conditions suffered during pregnancy, such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. After leaving the hospital, many mothers feel as though their health and needs are essentially forgotten. We know now that overlooking a woman who has just given birth can have tragic consequences.
More Mothers Die in America Than Other Developed Countries
A 6 month long NPR/ProPublica investigation last year found that the maternal death rate in the U.S. is higher than in any other developed country and that it is on the rise. Black mothers fare the worst. A black mother is 3 to 4 times more likely to die during pregnancy, childbirth, or during the postpartum period than a white mother. Our blog has previously touched on the reasons why: black women have higher rates of heart disease and other health conditions that impact pregnancy, and they are subjected to more stress than white women.
To put it into perspective, Nearly 800 women in the United States die each year from pregnancy-related complications. The CDC reports that 50,000 U.S. women a year have life threatening complications and that over 50% of maternal deaths happen after childbirth. This period following birth, often referred to by women’s health advocates as the fourth trimester, is crucial to the immediate and longterm health of a mother. Until now, recommendations didn’t seem to reflect that.
Seeing a mother for just one quick checkup at 6 weeks postpartum is obviously not enough to combat the rising death toll of new mothers, especially for those whose health issues may not have been resolved immediately following birth. Another issue with a 6 week visit is the reality of life for most new mothers in this country. Gone are the days when family and friends surrounded a new mother and helped with childcare, meals, and errands. Now, ACOG estimates that 40% of mothers miss that 6 week checkup, most likely because they already had to return to work. The U.S. Department of Labor has found that 45% of mothers are back at work within 40 days of giving birth.
Traditional Insurance Plans & Medicaid Must Also Change
ACOG acknowledges that these recent findings by CDC and NPR/ProPublica have played a large part in their push to change both the way OBs provide care to their postpartum patients, as well as the way insurance companies and Medicaid structure their maternity health plans.
Most private health plans structure maternity benefits as a global maternity fee that covers traditional pregnancy checkups, the delivery and the 6 week postpartum check up. In most states, including Illinois, Medicaid follows the same benefit structure as private plans, with maternity benefits expiring 60 days after birth. That means a mother on Medicaid could not currently receive covered care more than 60 days postpartum. ACOG’s recent committee report addresses these issues and urges those involved in maternal care to be vocal about the need for policy changes.
Levin & Perconti: Maternal Injury and Death Attorneys
Having a baby should be a joyous time for a woman, but recent data has shown us that too many mothers are dying or suffering from pregnancy complications that could have been resolved by attentive healthcare providers.
In the more than 25 years since our firm’s inception, the Chicago medical malpractice attorneys of Levin & Perconti have successfully settled and tried numerous cases involving maternal injuries and death as a result of pregnancy and childbirth, including multiple million dollar verdicts. As parents, we have personal experience with pregnancy and delivery complications and are passionate about securing justice for mothers whose lives have been impacted due to poor care during pregnancy and beyond.
If you or someone you love has experienced any significant injury resulting from a healthcare provider’s failure to recognize and treat symptoms related to Preeclampsia, HELLP Syndrome, an infection or hemorrhage, postpartum cardiomyopathy or any other of the serious disorders that can impact expectant and new mothers, please contact us now for a free consultation.