World Patient Safety Day – Maternal mortality: The real deal

September 17, 2021

By the end of today, 810 mothers and 6,700 newborns would have lost their life. This is why 2021 World Patient Safety Day is dedicated to maternal and child safety.

Safe maternal and newborn health isn’t something we think about, until we’re faced with the reality of the hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths that take place in this community, every year. With it being World Patient Safety Day, much needed attention is being paid to this corner of society and there is hope we can turn this statistic around.

Why are preventable deaths amongst mothers and newborns still so high?

The World Health Organisation’s findings on maternal mortality is that most of the lives lost in this category could be saved through the provision of safe care.
Busamed Modderfontein Private Hospital Obstetrician and Gynaecologist Dr Esther Rockson could not agree more. “I am a passionate advocate for ensuring safe care for pregnant women, their unborn children and newborns.” Dr. Rockson adds, “Particularly with pregnant patients, we are always monitoring vitals for signs of hypertension, obstetric haemorrhage and the possibility of cardiac disease. These are among the leading causes of maternal death in South Africa.”1

Dr. Rockson’s focus is always on educating her patients to listen to their intuition, maintain regular check-ups and control the stressors in their life.

Destigmatising depression in pregnancy

In a survey, in South Africa, of 496 new mothers from September to October 2020, it was found that 63% of women reported symptoms of perceived depression, yet only 15% accessed help for their plight.1

Dr. Rockson says she ensures that her patients are well monitored in this regard. “With hormone changes, life in a pandemic and pre-existing medical conditions, it’s important for caregivers to observe all aspects of their patient’s wellbeing. Suicide ideation and completion during pregnancy is not unheard of.” She adds that her approach is to destigmatise talking about feeling overwhelmed, anxious and afraid of parenthood, in the hopes that it encourages women to feel less alone in the experience and to seek help urgently.

“Particularly with this year’s theme of Patient Safety, I applaud physicians who take maternal mental health and wellness seriously. I also encourage pregnant women to seek better treatment from their physician if they feel unheard or stereotyped.”

Stereotypes that hamper treatment

Dr. Rockson says pregnant women still face stereotypical treatment and she has taken a position to never allow this in her practice. “As professionals, there is still much to do to address our own bias towards pain management or the judgement of young mothers, for example.” Even these factors play a role in the overall safety of patients, she adds.

Research from the World Health Organisations supports Dr. Rockson’s stance. The body has made a call to health workers to build competencies that provide safe and respectful maternal and newborn care. “…Sincewith the reality of the hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths that take place in this community, every year. With it being World Patient Safety Day, much needed attention is being paid to this corner of society and there is hope we can turn this statistic around. women’s experiences during childbirth are also affected by issues of gender equity and violence, World Patient Safety Day highlights the important notion of respectful care and its linkages with safety.”

Childbirth is when the most harm occurs

According to WHO, “Considering the significant burden of harm women and newborns are exposed to due to unsafe care, this year’s World Patient Safety Day is dedicated to the need to prioritise and address safety in maternal and newborn care, particularly around the time of childbirth, when most harm occurs. This is especially important in the context of disruption of health services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has further compounded the situation.

Assuring you of Busamed’s commitment to providing the best patient experience, our services have adjusted to the stressors faced in lockdown. Our focus on patient safety remains strong, clear and responsive. We always encourage you to listen to your body and if a symptom persists, seek medical advice from our trusted doctors.

References

  1. Jeranji, T. Maternal Deaths Increase by 30% during Covid-19 Lockdown. News24.com. Retrieved September 14, 2021, from https://www.news24.com/citypress/news/maternal-deaths-increase-by-30-during-covid-19-lockdown-20210305

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