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At Maternal Health Forum, Experts Discuss How to Protect Women From Harm

Gregg Richards/BPL Presents

This year ProPublica and NPR are investigating why, as maternal mortality has declined around the world, U.S. rates of maternal mortality are on the rise. The ongoing Lost Mothers series by ProPublica reporters Nina Martin and Adriana Gallardo, and NPR special correspondent Renee Montagne, shines a spotlight on the reasons behind the United States’ standing as having the highest rate of mothers dying during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum of any affluent country.

One factor that their reporting identified is a lack of awareness and transparency. Impacted families are conditioned to see maternal deaths as private tragedies, rather than a public health crisis. When mothers survive life-threatening complications during childbirth, they often lack complete information about what happened. With these stories nearly invisible, many Americans simply don’t know the problem exists. Therefore taking the conversation from private to public, allowing people to connect with one another, has been an important aspect of the project.

On Tuesday night, in partnership with the Brooklyn Public Library’s BPL Presents, we did this through a live event titled “Lost Mothers: Key Ways to Improve Maternal Health.” The forum convened a diverse crowd of experts — including doctors, doulas, midwives, nurses, expectant mothers, women who nearly died of childbirth and family members who lost a loved one — to discuss what the health care system can do to protect more women from harm, as well as steps that all of us can take.

Larry Bloomstein

The physician and widower of Lauren Bloomstein (featured in the first article of the series), on the critical need for standardized protocols for obstetric emergencies, and better data collection on maternal deaths:

Deborah Kaplan

The assistant commissioner at the NYC Department of Health, advising women to listen to their instincts when a provider fails to treat them with respect — or claims that “everything’s fine”:

Chanel Porchia-Albert

The founder and executive director of Ancient Song Doula Services, on the importance for providers to approach patients of color not only with cultural competency, but cultural humility by identifying and acknowledging their own biases and blind spots:

Mary D’Alton

The chair of Columbia University Medical Center’s department of obstetrics and gynecology, on ways to get more hospitals to actually implement best practices on maternal care:

Watch the full discussion.

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