On Friday, Sept. 7, around 100 physicians, nurses, health care professionals and students gathered for the 13th Annual Obstetrics and Gynecology Symposium. The conference, hosted by Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso’s Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, focused on pregnancy-related morbidity and mortality.
Although researchers have had difficulty collecting accurate data on maternal mortality, recent studies show that Texas—and the U.S. overall—has higher rates of pregnancy-related deaths than other developed, high-resource countries. Particularly troubling for Texas has been the disproportionate rate of maternal mortality for black women. The studies were extensively covered by the media this year, putting Texas’ problems with pregnancy-related deaths in the national spotlight.
“Sometimes (negative) press can be a good thing,” said Lisa M. Hollier, M.D., a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine and president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, who keynoted the symposium.
“I think it brought attention to an incredibly important issue. It put a real face to women who are losing their lives from potentially preventable situations.”
While underlying health conditions like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and diabetes are among the risk factors for maternal death, many of these conditions are treatable.
“There is a link between these severe maternal complications and preventable maternal deaths,” said Dr. Hollier.
One approach is to increase access to care for patients on Medicare, says Dr. Hollier, who advocates for postpartum coverage up to one year following birth.
Another technique health care teams are using is the application of “maternal safety bundles,” or best practices, for the care of pregnant and postpartum women. These guidelines spell out action measures for complications like obstetrical hemorrhage, hypertension and preeclampsia, and C-sections.
“’Maternal rules,’ as they call them, for hospital levels of designation, was finalized in March of this year,” said Sireesha Y. Reddy, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the PLFSOM. “Now, hospitals are being surveyed throughout the state. I think this is an opportune time to start to implement some of those changes to drive maternal care in the city in a more positive direction.”
Other speakers at the symposium included Elliott Main, M.D., a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford University, and national director for the Alliance in Innovation on Maternal Health.
The 13th Annual Obstetrics and Gynecology Symposium was jointly organized by the Office of Continuing Medical Education and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.