(PHOENIX - April 14, 2023) – Dignity Health in Arizona is taking steps to address the maternal mortality crisis in the United States through cardiovascular care among a vulnerable demographic – Black women.
Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related complication than white women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Factors like racial bias among providers, limited access to quality prenatal care and health insurance all contribute to this disparity.
Cardiovascular disease remains the primary cause of maternal death among Black women – a condition which is often preventable and one that some experts are urgently calling for close monitoring during pregnancy.
“Pregnancy is a stress test on the heart,” said Dr. Rachel Bond, a cardiologist with Dignity Health in Arizona. “We tend to see adverse outcomes among pregnant and postpartum Black women when conditions that affect the heart, such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, are paired with psychosocial stressor which are often experienced by women of color.”
Dignity Health in Arizona has created a Maternal Heart Council to closely monitor pregnant women who experience cardiac conditions while expecting and through their postpartum period.
A collaborative group of Dignity Health cardiovascular, obstetric and maternal fetal medicine experts regularly meet to discuss personalized care plans for high-risk patients and develop new guidance, protocols and educational objectives to address ways to care for the cardiovascular health of pregnant women throughout the Valley.
“The Maternal Heart Council is an active step in ensuring a heart condition doesn’t stop a mom from watching her children grow up,” said Dr. Bond. “By improving the line of communication between clinical experts in different specialities, we can help care for women and educate them so they are in control of their heart health.”
Patient education is a major cornerstone for the Maternal Heart Council as conditions developed during pregnancy can reveal whether a woman is at a greater risk of developing heart disease in the future.
“Monitoring your heart health shouldn’t stop after you have a baby,” said Dr. Bond. “As health care professionals, it is important that we encourage women, especially women of color, to get the cardiovascular care they need throughout the continuum of care. By teaching women the signs and symptoms of heart disease at any stage of pregnancy, they can feel equipped to follow up on cardiovascular concerns throughout their life and pass that knowledge on to the next generation.”
April 11-17 is Black Maternal Health Week, an opportunity to recognize ways to improve outcomes among Black moms in America.