April 11-17th is Black Maternal Health Week, a week dedicated to raising awareness and increased advocacy for African American mothers, their children, and families of color. Racial disparities in perinatal outcomes and pregnancy continue to cause distress in the United States. According to the CDC, black women die during pregnancy at a rate four times that of white women, often from hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases - about the same rate as women in countries such as Mexico or Ghana.
"It is critical that we do everything we can to eliminate racial disparities in healthcare and make sure all women--especially African-American women--understand the importance of preventative care and have access to regular screening opportunities and the proper specialists, particularly during pregnancy and after childbirth," said Dr. Cornelia Graves, Director of Perinatal Services at Saint Thomas Health.
According to World Health Organization, most maternal deaths are preventable, as the healthcare solutions to prevent or manage complications are well known. In the United States, cardiovascular complications are the leading cause of maternal harm and maternal death. All women need access to antenatal care in pregnancy, skilled care during childbirth, and care and support in the weeks after childbirth.
The Collaborative Perinatal Cardiac Center at Saint Thomas Heart cares for antepartum and intrapartum women who are at high risk for cardiovascular complications related to preexisting and/or current co-morbidities. Dr. Graves along with her co director, Dr. Stacy Davis, have over 25 years of experience in caring for women with cardiovascular complications in pregnancy. Together, they have developed a nationally recognized program that also addresses women with pregnancy complications which place them at risk for future cardiovascular events. They lead a team of Maternal Fetal Specialists and Cardiologists who work collaboratively to develop systematic, streamlined patient care protocols that offer each patient a comprehensive, individualized treatment and long-term education plan.