Monday, May 22, 2017
#MicroblogMondays: Let's break the silence on another taboo subject
I wasn't always prepared for the stories & additional information I'd hear -- never more so than the day, early in my career, when I was breezily informed that the 35-year-old supervisor I was calling about had died in childbirth. Childbirth??! Who, in 1980-something Canada/North America, with all the benefits and miracles offered by modern medicine (not to mention universal healthcare), died in CHILDBIRTH??
Unfortunately, more women than we might think -- and even more unfortunately, 30 years later, it's still happening with alarming frequency. Those of us who have endured miscarriage, stillbirth and other forms of pregnancy or infant loss know the silence, the taboos that surround our losses -- not only among family & friends, but in the medical community itself -- the lack of established protocols, reliable statistics and research.
But maternal death (or near-death) remains, it seems, is also an unspeakable subject -- despite the fact that some 700 to 900 American women die every year from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes -- and a further 65,000 come far too close to dying for comfort. This is a far higher rate than any other developed country -- and almost 60 per cent of these deaths are preventable.
So I was happy to see that NPR & ProPublica have recently joined forces to shed some light on this important-but-overlooked loss-related health issue. They kicked things off with a devastating story, "The Last Person You'd Expect to Die in Childbirth," which focuses on the death of Lauren Bloomstein, a 33-year-old woman whose doctor failed to recognize the warning signs of pre-eclampsia & HELLP syndrome. (Ironically, Bloomstein was, of all things, a neonatal intensive care nurse.) That was followed by "What We've Learned So Far About Maternal Mortality From You, Our Readers." Item #1: "We realized that it's part of a pattern: Treating the death of a mother due to pregnancy or childbirth as a private tragedy rather than as part of a public health crisis," says writer Adriana Gallardo. (Hmmm, this sounds familiar...)
"We're just getting started," Gallardo promises. Want to help them? Through my 10 years of pregnancy loss support group facilitation, almost 20 years in loss & infertility online forums and almost 10 years of blogging, I know that that many of the loss moms I've encountered were near-casualties themselves. (In fact, I discovered that my own mother had had pre-eclampsia and, in her own words, "We're both lucky we're here.")
If you know someone who died or nearly died in pregnancy, childbirth or within a year after delivery -- or if you ARE that person (whether your baby lived or died) -- consider telling ProPublica your story. Further information on how to contact them can be found here.
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.