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New Jersey
Virtua Supports Maternal Health Awareness Day on January 23rd
Story Number is : 012918116
Virtua Health


Zoe Rodriguez Rivera

A 36 year-old New Jersey mother of triplets who delivered three healthy baby boys, Gabriel, Lucas and Xavier via medically-indicated cesarean section at Virtua Voorhees on September 28, 2017. Soon after delivery, Zoe lost half of her body’s blood supply when she experienced a post-partum hemorrhage. She was told by her physician that she needed an immediate uterine artery embolization to stop the bleeding. The procedure stopped the bleeding and Zoe spent the next two days in the Intensive Care Unit and then three more days in the High Risk Obstetrical Unit. During her recovery from the embolization, physicians determined that Zoe also had multiple blood clots in her uterus and a second procedure was scheduled to help her pass the clots. After five days, she was released from the hospital. Neither she nor her three babies have had any other medical issues as a result of childbirth.

“I didn’t realize how bad it was at first,” Zoe said. “I never realized how much could go wrong during and after childbirth—I could have died—I almost was not here for my boys.”

Nicole Lamborne, MD, Program Director of Women’s Health at Virtua
At Virtua, a healthcare system synonymous with maternal-child health in southern New Jersey, maternal mortality is its utmost priority. “We find it unacceptable that the US ranks so low in developed countries and spends the most on care—it is also unacceptable that New Jersey is 35th among states,” said Dr. Lamborne. “Over the past five years, we have addressed specific causes of maternal morbidity and have developed very detailed protocol and process around those issues which include obstetrical hemorrhage, hypertension in pregnancy and gaps in care between the emergency departments and obstetric triage to prevent the misdiagnosis of obstetrical emergencies. We continually assess opportunities for improvement and focus on those areas.”

January 23, 2018 is Maternal Health Awareness Day in the state of New Jersey. The goal of this day is to increase maternal health awareness and to help ensure that fewer women will lose their lives or experience catastrophic illness as a result of pregnancy or childbirth. Although most Americans are under the assumption that deaths resulting from childbirth are very rare in this country, the most current statistics show that maternal deaths are alarmingly on the rise. 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 dealing with the same maternal-child health issues as the rest of the country. In fact, as stated in a recent NJ Spotlight article, “According to its most recent report, covering 2009 to 2013, the maternal death rate for white women went from 10.2 to 12.8 per 100,000 births; among black women, it started at 48.8, dropped to 25.7 in 2011, and had climbed back to 46.5 by 2013.” At the time it was published, the report notes New Jersey ranked 35th among the states for the number of pregnancy-related deaths.

These protocols, like the ones established at Virtua, are needed and are saving the lives of pregnant women and new mothers like Zoe Rodriguez Rivera--and tennis superstar Serena Williams who also suffered life-threatening complications after she delivered her daughter. Women need to be aware of the many risks associated with pregnancy and childbirth and must speak up if they feel that something is “not right” with their health.
• Most women don’t know that they are most at risk for complications in the first two weeks after delivery.
• Every day, two women on average diein the United States following childbirth, and an additional 1,000 women are affected every week by severe complications during delivery. Maternal morbidity affects approximately 52,000 women each year.
• As compared to the United States, 49 other countries have reported lower maternal
mortality rates, with the U.S. maternal mortality ratio higher than in many developing countries.
• Between 40% and 50% of maternal deaths and 30% to 40% of “near miss”/severe complications are preventable through changes in provider, patient and systems factors.
(Source: American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology)

By creating the first Maternal Health Awareness Day in the nation, New Jersey 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 Maternal Health (AIM).

The story behind 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, Brandon Ryan Hansen from an infection that had occurred during the birth, 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.”

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