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Pregnancy-Related Deaths Focus of New CDC Public Awareness Campaign

To help raise awareness about the warning signals pregnant women should be aware of to avoid the risk of serious complications or death, federal health officials have launched a new “Hear Her” marketing campaign.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a press release on August 10 announcing the national effort, which aims to highlight the warning signs of pregnancy-related deaths, which may occur during pregnancy or within the first year postpartum.

According to the health officials, roughly 700 women die each year in the United States from pregnancy-related complications, many of which are preventable with some intervention.

There are significant racial and ethnic disparities regarding pregnancy-related complications and deaths, according to the CDC. For example, American Indian/Alaska Native and Black women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women.

Some common causes of pregnancy-related mortality include heart problems, infections, hemorrhaging, pulmonary or other forms of embolism, and cardiomyopathy, the agency has found. However, every two out of three pregnant and postpartum-related deaths are preventable if healthcare providers convey the warning signs to women, family members, and partners.

The “Hear Her” campaign offers a resource of education and encouragement to pregnant and postpartum women and includes a list of urgent maternal warning signs to learn and watch for:

  • Headache that won’t go away or gets worse over time
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Changes in vision
  • Fever of 100.4 degrees F or higher
  • Extreme swelling of the hands or face
  • Thoughts about harming yourself or your baby
  • Trouble breathing
  • Chest pain or fast-beating heart
  • Severe nausea and throwing up
  • Severe belly pain that doesn’t go away
  • Baby’s movement stopping or slowing during pregnancy
  • Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy
  • Vaginal bleeding after pregnancy
  • Severe swelling, redness or pain in the leg or arm
  • Overwhelming tiredness

The campaign hinges on women speaking up if something does not feel right. Healthcare providers, friends and family members should listen to pregnant and postpartum women and to their concerns to help be advocates in the event of an emergency, the CDC advises.

Pregnant women or women who have been pregnant in the last year should talk to their healthcare providers if they feel something may be wrong or have experienced a warning sign. If they have experienced a warning sign, they should get medical care immediately.

Family members, friends and partners should learn the warning signs. The campaign encourages the people supporting pregnant and postpartum women to listen carefully and act when necessary to help get an accurate and timely diagnosis when it is needed the most and can save lives.

“Pregnancy and childbirth should not place a mother’s life in jeopardy, yet in far too many instances, women are dying from complications,” CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, said in the press release. “This seminal campaign is intended to disrupt the too-familiar pattern of preventable maternal mortality and encourage everyone in a woman’s life to be attentive and supportive of her health during this important time.”

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