From Sunday to Tuesday this week, I attended Mom Congress in Washington DC (see here). There were 150 of us from around the nation (almost all states were represented!), and I met incredible moms who are survivors of HELLP Syndrome, Preeclampsia, PPCM, Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, stillbirth, and miscarriage. It is an understatement to say that I was surrounded by incredible women who are no strangers to maternal challenges.
The purpose of getting all these strong women together was to speak to and petition our legislators about what is being called the MOMNIBUS, a collection of bills that would create standardization for maternal care surrounding birth, especially in the Medicaid program.
These are the four topics we discussed:
In the US, we spend more on health care than anywhere else yet we have the worst maternal mortality rates in the developed world. We rank 46th out of the 184 countries in the world (see here).
About 700 women die from pregnancy-related complications each year, and 60% of those deaths are preventable (see here).
The leading complications are heart disease, stroke, infection, hemorrhage, and hypertension.
Our mortality rates have doubled in the last 20 years, and we are the only developed nation to have increasing maternal mortality rates.
For every maternal death we have in the US, 70 other mothers have a near-miss.
Maternal Mental Health
The staggering thing is that the leading cause of death in mothers the year after birth is mental health. Suicide is the biggest threat to new moms.
We’ve all heard about Postpartum Depression (PPD), but it’s little known that mothers can also suffer from anxiety (PPA), OCD, post-traumatic stress (PTSD), and psychosis.
African American and Native American women are 3-4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than Caucasian women.
In NYC, black moms are 12 times more likely to experience mortality than their white counterparts.
And: Respectful Perinatal Care
Many mothers are receiving unnecessary procedures that carry risk and cause complications, or they are being dismissed when they feel something is wrong and are prematurely discharged from care. I heard a lot of moms say this weekend:
“We knew something was wrong and no one listened.”
The current state of maternal care could be wrapped up in:
“Too much too soon, or too little too late.”
It’s clear in America: moms need more. We need more standardization in our health care system so fewer of us die in preventable ways after childbirth. We need more support after birth so fewer of us suffer from depression and other mood disorders that can stem from isolation and stress. We need more practitioners of color so that black, Hispanic, and native mothers can be heard and understood in our system again. We need mental health to be taken seriously so we aren’t dismissed as being “just sad” or a product of sleep deprivation.
So, the whole point of talking about all of this was to bring it to the attention of our representatives. Of course, you can’t make your representative do your bidding. But being there in their offices, it was apparent that those who represent us are eager to hear our stories. It’s hard to keep that in mind when all we see is sound bites and political memes.
Legislators are eager to hear from their constituents; they can’t read our minds and need us to tell them what matters to us and what we care about. Even if you can’t go to the office of your legislator, write an email or make a phone call. And (maybe most importantly) get involved in your state and local governments. Make an appointment. Walk in and tell your story and what you think should happen. Your words and opinions are valuable to those we delegate to make decisions on our behalf.
If you don’t know who represents you, click here if you live in Minnesota and here if you live elsewhere.
The MOMNIBUS I mentioned earlier consists of four pieces of legislation. If you’d like to take a look at the bills we were supporting, click on the links below for the associated proposed legislation.
How does Marabou support women?
We live in culture where “bouncing back” is more valued than proper rest. As admirable as it may be for a sports star to get back on the field, the same rules don’t apply to postpartum recovery. The traditional resting period has been stolen from women through pressure to get back to their job or simply through lack of presence.
Grandmas, sisters and best friends who otherwise would have been there to help a woman transition into motherhood often live too far away to be of any help. Household chores and caring for older children inevitably fall on the mom. But she just delivered a new life! She needs rest.
Marabou Services is a unique gift registry which provides services instead of stuff. Most mom’s get too many onesies, too many baby blankets and not enough helping hands. Break out of a destructive cultural norm and start a Marabou registry today.
With a Marabou registry you can sing up for any service which will benefit you or someone you know during the postpartum recovery period.
Postpartum doulas for a first time mom
House cleanings for moms of multiples
Childcare for moms with older children!
Once your registry is created, add it to any other registry or post it to your Facebook and ask friends and family contribute to your postpartum service, rather than buying you more stuff.