Dr. Eina Fishman, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Florida, shares tips on how to lower risks
The anticipation of bringing a new bundle of joy into the world – and all that comes with it – can be both exciting and stressful for moms to-be. But if you are an expectant African-American mother, there is much more at stake, according to a recent study. Having a baby comes with several risk factors, and too many black moms die during and shortly after childbirth.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that, on average, black mothers in the United States die at a rate that is three- to four-times that of white mothers – one of the widest, most striking, disparities in women’s health. According to America’s Health Rankings’ 2018 Health of Women and Children Report, gaps also persist in Florida, with more than 45 deaths per 100,000 live births among black moms, compared to nearly 20 for white moms. Nationally, there are 20 deaths per 100,000 births for all mothers.
There are a variety of issues that factor into these statistics. Some of these include rising rates of chronic diseases such as obesity, hypertension and cardiovascular disease among minority groups. However, systemic issues abound. According to healthypeople.gov, factors such as access to health care and early intervention programs, educational, employment, economic opportunities, social support, and availability of resources to meet essential needs influence outcomes. Additionally, inequities in the level of medical care and gaps in patient safety for expectant black mothers play a major part.
Given these disparities, expectant black mothers are encouraged to take control of their health before, during and after their pregnancy. There are a number of things expectant mothers can do to curtail some of the risks that come with pregnancy and childbirth, including:
Healthy pregnancies begin before conception. Treatment of chronic illnesses – particularly cardiovascular diseases – before getting pregnant will ultimately result in fewer complications. Expectant mothers should talk to their doctor about their general medical history (including their family’s), any current health issues, their diet and exercise routine, pregnancy history and any mental health concerns.
Early and consistent prenatal care
Having prenatal care is associated with healthy pregnancies, especially care during the first trimester. If you know you are pregnant or think you might be, call your doctor to schedule a visit. According to womenshealth.gov, babies of mothers who do not get prenatal care are three-times more likely to have a low birth weight and five-times more likely to die than those born to mothers who do get care.
A balanced diet, taking prenatal vitamins and maintaining a healthy weight during pregnancy can improve outcomes for both mother and baby.
Be vocal about your medical care
As a patient, you have a right to know everything as it relates to your medical treatment. Do not be afraid to ask questions or raise concerns about your level of care or treatment (this includes routine procedures and tests) with your care provider.
Each year, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan covers 160,000 pregnancies and births nationally. Early identification and engagement of pregnant mothers, enhanced support for care providers, an enriched health care experience, and access to community partners who can offer additional resources are keys to healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.
There are also numerous community resources available for expectant moms. Among them:
Baby Blocks, an online program that rewards pregnant women and new parents for staying on top of their prenatal and well-baby care,
Fresh EBT, a food budgeting app that educates pregnant women and others about healthy food choices and Healthy First Steps, which improves pregnancy outcomes through case management and robust support services.
For more information about maternal health and mortality among expectant and new moms in Florida and nationwide, visit the America’s Health Rankings 2018 Health of Women and Children Report from United Health Foundation.