Obstetric professionals such as OBGYNs, obstetric nurses, midwives, and women’s health nurse practitioners have an opportunity to provide important education to patients about the urgent maternal warning signs during their pregnancy and in the postpartum period. It’s important to start building trust and a relationship with your patient early during prenatal visits.
Pregnancy-Related Deaths Can Happen During and After Pregnancy
Pregnancy-related deaths can happen during pregnancy and up to a year after pregnancy. According to CDC data, 22% of pregnancy-related deaths happen during pregnancy, 25% during the day of delivery or up to a week after, and 53% one week to one year after pregnancy.
Pregnant and postpartum people should seek medical care immediately if they experience any urgent maternal warning sign.
During the postpartum period, patients may not consider that their health concern could be related to their recent pregnancy. It’s important to make sure soon-to-be moms understand the importance of monitoring their own health, in addition to the health of their newborn. Ensure your patients know to tell a medical professional they were pregnant in the past year if they need to seek urgent care.
Make Sure Each Patient Is Heard
Taking the time to build trust with your patient and engage them in their care can lead to positive outcomes. Encourage patients to share any concerns they may have. Many people feel that their concerns during and after pregnancy are not heard. Although healthcare settings are often busy and time is limited, taking a few moments to actively listen to what is being said can make all the difference in better understanding your patient’s needs and providing quality care.
Active listening involves receptive body language, practicing empathy, repeating back questions or concerns, and asking clarifying questions to make sure you understand. It is respectful and non-judgmental. Active listening helps build trust with your patients through shared knowledge.
Address Health Inequities
The tragic reality is that Black women are 3 times more likely to die and American Indian and Alaska Native women are 2 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than White women. A growing body of research documents the role that structural racism and implicit (or unconscious) bias plays in generating health disparities across a spectrum of outcomes.
Be conscious of how structural racism and personal biases may translate to patient care and health outcomes. Ensure every patient is provided respectful, patient-centered care.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) makes the following recommendations for obstetrician/gynecologists and other health care providers to improve patient-centered care and decrease inequities in reproductive healthcare by:
- Inquiring about and documenting social and structural determinants of health that may influence a patient’s health and use of healthcare.
- Maximizing referrals to social services to help improve patients’ abilities to fulfill these needs.
- Providing access to interpreter services for all patient interactions when patient language is not the clinicians’ language.
- Recognizing that stereotyping patients using presumed cultural beliefs can negatively affect patient interactions, especially when patients’ behaviors are attributed solely to individual choices without recognizing the role of social and structural factors.
Healthcare professionals can take trainings on diversity, shared decision making, cultural competency, and implicit biases as important components to address disparities in healthcare and health outcomes.