This Woman’s Work: Symposium Held to Discuss Maternal Mortality

By: Mattie Winowitch

Death from childbirth or other pregnancy-related causes is often a concern of pregnant women, and today in the U.S., maternal mortality remains a growing epidemic.

To explore and discuss this issue further using statistics and research, Healthy Start, Inc. recently hosted their 15th annual Cheryl Squire Flint Cultural Sensitivity Symposium titled, “This Woman’s Work: Exploring Maternal Mortality and Morbidity” at the University of Pittsburgh University Club.

The symposium featured a health education discussion on the modern-day issues of birth, including racial disparities, traumatic birth experiences and post-partum depression.

For Dr. Stacy Beck, assistant professor in the department of obstetrics and maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and physician at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, “This Woman’s Work” served as an extension of the research that is done in the hospital nearly every day.

“Magee already internally performs a quality review of not only all maternal deaths, but also any significant maternal morbidities, which are also referred to as ‘near misses,’” she said. “We hope to be able to prevent any future incidents.”

Specifically, Magee is home to the largest research institute in the U.S. that is dedicated solely to women’s health research: the Magee-Womens Research Institute.

“At MWRI, researchers are actively involved in studies trying to find ways to lower maternal mortality,” Beck said. “It’s really an ongoing process.”

One major aspect of “This Woman’s Work” was the discussion of racial disparities when it comes to caring for pregnant women. The risk of pregnancy-related deaths for black women is three to four times higher than that of white women, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By starting the conversation at the symposium, Beck said she feels part of this problem has already been solved.

“Often, there can be an innate lack of trust of healthcare workers for women of color,” she said. “When we can engage in conversations with people in the community, especially with women who are willing to help talk about racial disparities, we can try to break any barriers that exist. This can help us better improve the lives of women everywhere.”

While the event was designed for professionals within the women’s health field, Beck said the topic is important for everyone to understand as the health care industry strives to provide top care to all pregnant women.

“It is important to engage the community and have them not only hear about these issues but to actually take ownership and want to make a difference,” Beck said. “It takes a community to really be involved in these issues.”