Other Healthcare Professionals

As a healthcare professional, you play a critical role in eliminating preventable maternal mortality. One part of the solution is to really hear women’s concerns during and after pregnancy and engage in an open conversation to make sure any issues are adequately addressed.

One in three pregnancy-related deaths happen within the year after pregnancy.

The risk of pregnancy-related complications continues for one year after a pregnancy ends, so it’s critical for any healthcare professional to identify patients who are pregnant or were pregnant in the last year and be aware of the urgent maternal warning signs from these complications. Emergency department staff, EMTs/paramedics, urgent care staff, primary care providers, mental health professionals, and many others have an important role to play in identifying pregnancy status and recognizing the signs and symptoms of complications.

Read more from ACOG on Identifying and Managing Obstetric Emergencies in Nonobstetric Settings.

Always Ask If Your Patient Is Pregnant Or Was Pregnant In The Last Year

Pregnancy or postpartum status may not be something your patient or their support person thinks about sharing, particularly in an emergency, but it could be the difference in making an accurate and timely diagnosis.

Understanding the physiologic changes during and after pregnancy may be key in determining a diagnosis. For instance, a normal pregnancy can mimic signs of cardiovascular disease like shortness of breath, swelling, light headaches, dizziness, and heart murmurs. This may make it more challenging to diagnose cardiovascular disease in a pregnant person, so it’s important to keep these physiologic changes in mind.

In a pregnant or postpartum person, a blood pressure over 140/90 may require evaluation and immediate treatment for preeclampsia. Read more in ACOG’s Practice Bulletin on Pregnancy and Heart Disease.

Recognize Urgent Maternal Warning Signs

Pregnant and postpartum people need to seek medical care immediately if they experience an urgent maternal warning sign. These symptoms could indicate a life-threatening situation. If your patient is pregnant or was pregnant within the last year and experiences one of these symptoms, consult with an OBGYN and/or another specialist.

emergency medical technician

Asking whether my patient had been pregnant in the last year may have helped save her life.

Urgent Maternal Warning Signs
  • Severe headache
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Changes in vision
  • Fever
  • Trouble breathing
  • Overwhelming tiredness
  • Chest pain
  • Severe belly pain
  • Severe nausea and throwing up
  • Severe swelling
  • Thoughts about harming self or baby