The CDC has launched a new national campaign to bring much-needed attention to pregnancy-related deaths, Hear Her, in hopes of reducing the number of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States.
Nearly 700 women a year die in the United States as a result of pregnancy-related complications.
The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is looking to bring attention to that number, and reduce those statistics, with their launching of the Hear Her campaign. Hear Her will work to raise awareness about potentially life-threatening issues that occur during and after a woman’s pregnancy (within a year of delivery).
The campaign’s goal is to empower pregnant and postpartum women to speak up when they believe something doesn’t ‘feel right,’ and will work to encourage those who support pregnant and postpartum women to take those feelings seriously and act on them when they’re voiced.
That second part–encouraging those who support pregnant and postpartum women to take feelings and concerns seriously–that’s a big one particularly for women of color and different ethnicities. There are significant ethnic and racial differences in the statistics for pregnancy-related complications and deaths. Black women and American Indian/Alaska Native women are two to three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related complication than white women are. This is especially troubling when the CDC says that 2 out of 3 of those deaths could be prevented, if only the concerns of the mother were taken seriously.
Dr. Robert R. Redfield is the CDC Director. He said that pregnancy and childbirth should not be death risks for women, but in too many instances, complications are taking their lives. The goal of this campaign is to break the pattern of ignorance when it comes to preventable maternal mortality, and to encourage all those who are part of a pregnant/postpartum woman’s life to support and pay attention to her health because listening and acting quickly can save lives.
The Hear Her campaign will push the partners, family, friends and healthcare providers of women to listen to and engage in serious conversations about the concerns pregnant and postpartum women have, and to not just brush them off as, “That’s pregnancy. That’s normal.”
The goal is to especially do so for women of color and those who support women of color and diverse ethnic background, as they may also face systematic deference due to their race or ethnicity.
Dr. Wanda Barfield is the Director of the CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. She says that women know their bodies better than anyone, and we can often tell when something isn’t right within us. She hopes the campaign will help other people to pay attention to those concerns we have, and get the help women need when they recognize maternal warning signs.
Using compelling personal stories from women who experienced severe pregnancy-related complications, Hear Her shows how so many situations and deaths could have been avoided with a few simple words–those spoken out and those heard.
‘Hear Her’ urges women who are pregnant or postpartum to talk to their healthcare providers if they are facing urgent maternal warning signs as highlighted on the site, and to continue to share concerns until they are heard and addressed. The campaign also encourages those partners, family and friends of women to help care for pregnant and postpartum mothers by learning signs of concern and urging their loved ones to seek help.
And while this is well and good (and it is), it’s important to note that a crucial part of women getting the help they need is to have healthcare providers pay attention to them and take them seriously. This is not always as easy for women of color or particular ethnicities, so it is important we continue to advocate for ALL women of ALL colors and ethnicities to be heard in ALL health issues.
Because pregnancy and giving birth shouldn’t be a death sentence just because a provider doesn’t take you seriously.