Did you know that maternal mortality rates are on the rise in the United States? Did you know that heart-related problems are the leading cause of maternal death? Quite a few nurses in a recently surveyed group didn’t know these facts, revealing that many full-time and postpartum travel nurses are ill-informed about the dangers mothers face after giving birth.
There were 372 postpartum nurses nationwide surveyed by MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing and nearly one-third of the survey respondents had masters or doctoral degrees. The survey found that:
- Close to half of the nurses surveyed didn’t know that maternal mortality rates have gone up in the U.S. in recent years. In fact, 19 percent of them thought maternal deaths had declined.
- Only 12 percent of the nurses surveyed knew that most maternal deaths occur in the days and weeks after delivery, and only 24 percent were able to identify heart-related problems as the leading cause of maternal death in the U.S.
- Nurses also admitted in the survey that they are uncomfortable discussing life-threatening complications with new mothers because childbirth is supposed to be a happy time and they don’t want to scare them.
The survey exposed the need for more education about the health risks after childbirth. Researchers conducting the survey found that educating nurses didn’t take long. Researchers used focus groups of nurses and created two standardized tools – a checklist and a script – that nurses could use to educate themselves and their patients on the health risks after childbirth. They also created a handout for patients to take with them, and after doing that many patients called back later to say they were experiencing symptoms.
Warning Signs and Health Risks Mothers Face After Childbirth
It’s very important for postpartum travel nurses to understand the health risks that women face after childbirth because the U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate among affluent nations. An estimated 700 to 900 women die every year from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The only way to bring this number down is for everyone to be more aware of what the complications are and how to prevent them.
So, let’s review some facts about the health risks after childbirth.
After giving birth, women are at a higher risk for infections, such as in their bladder, kidneys, or breasts. They may experience pain, excessive bleeding, depression, hemorrhoids, and constipation. Some of these symptoms can become life-threatening, which is why it’s important for both new mothers and postpartum travel nurses to be aware of the warning signs.
Warning signs include:
- Heavy bleeding
- Discharge or pain that doesn’t go away or continues to get worse
- Feelings of sadness that last longer than 10 days after giving birth
- Fever over 100 degrees
- Lower belly pain or nausea
Postpartum travel nurses should make their patients aware that these are warning signs. If patients are experiencing these signs at home or in the hospital, then they should say something. In addition to these warning signs, there are other hints a woman’s body will give that indicate the new mother should seek immediate attention. These more severe warning signs include:
- Uncontrollable bleeding
- Chest pain
- Trouble breathing
- Signs of shock, such as chills, clammy skin, dizziness, a racing heart or fainting
The nurses surveyed admitted they spend about 10 minutes or less educating new moms about these warning signs, and researchers have found that up to 40 percent of new mothers don’t ever go back for their follow-up appointment. As a postpartum travel nurse who gets to work in a variety of healthcare facilities across the country, do you feel you are educated enough on the health risks of childbirth to educate your patients or do you need to do additional research? Share your thoughts and experiences with us below!