Ways to Improve Maternal Health

Steve Adubato speaks with Suzanne Spernal, DNP, APN, Vice President of Women’s Services, RWJBarnabas Health, about the ways to improve maternal health outcomes and reduce maternal mortality.

11/23/19 #121






"We are joined by Suzanne Spernal, who is vice president of women's services, RWJBarnabas Health. Good to see you. Thank you for having me. A professional... excuse me, clinical background, APN, an advanced practice nurse? Yes. We have you on to talk about a whole range of issues having to do with maternal health. I'm gonna get on this right away. As we were researching this program, there's something that struck me. 44 states deliver better maternal health outcomes than New Jersey. What? Why? So that's a good question, and the answer is a little complicated. So let's take a step back and talk about what a maternal death is, what maternal mortality is, and then maybe the "why" will make a little bit more sense. So a maternal death is a death that occurs anytime during pregnancy, the day of delivery, and up to a year after the pregnancy is completed. And I think that a lot of people, when they hear the term "maternal mortality" or "maternal death," they envision something... a catastrophic... catastrophic event that happens while a woman's delivering... In childbirth? Exactly. Exactly. But? But we know that the majority of maternal deaths are occurring after mom gives birth and is back out in our communities. What, is that...? Excuse me for interrupting, is that the 42 days after? Yes. So from... What's going on then? So it's a multitude of things But the most common causes of maternal mortality in that time frame are cardiac complications, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, women having blood clots, women having a stroke, and I think part of the problem is that there's a lack of awareness... Of what? Of... Okay. So women out there right now. Men and/or women. What...? Men concerned about the women in their lives. Thank you for saying that. What should they be looking for? So I think that women and their families, and even their providers, tend to minimize complaints, that... for you or I, if we were to say it, would be probably benign. And I'll give you a good example. A headache. So one of the... Within a 42 day period after birth? Yes. I get headaches? Right. "Eh?" I get headaches also. So... But what happens to a woman who's just given childbirth 21 days after? Go ahead. So let's make it even closer. Let's close that window a... Go ahead. ...little bit. Let's say seven days after, mom's sleep-deprived, maybe she hasn't been drinking enough water, maybe she hasn't been eating well, and she's got this headache. And she's taken some pain relievers and that headache is just not getting better. So her family, her support people, may say, "You're just tired. You had a baby. This is normal." You'll be fine? You'll be fine. But? But it's a cardinal symptom of something..."