RWJBarnabas Health helps raise awareness of underlying causes of maternal mortality

RWJBarnabas Health, together with the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, is observing Maternal Health Awareness Day on Monday, raising awareness among both clinicians and patients on the two leading causes of maternal mortality.

The ACOG theme for the 2023 Maternal Health Awareness Day, “Know Why,” focuses on mental health conditions and cardiac and coronary conditions, which were recently identified by maternal mortality review committees and reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the top underlying causes of death during and after pregnancy.

This is the first time that mental health conditions were reported as a leading underlying cause of pregnancy-related deaths.

RWJBarnabas Health offers the state’s first and only Centers for Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders, which are dedicated to helping women and families manage mental health issues during and after pregnancy.

Additionally, the RWJBarnabas Health Institute for Prevention and Recovery recently was awarded one of two nearly $1 million federal maternal health grants to address substance use issues during pregnancy and the postpartum period, with the goal of reducing related maternal deaths. Currently, IFPR offers a Peer Recovery Program, providing in-person and virtual recovery support services to help new and expectant mothers.

To address the second major driver of maternal mortality, cardiac and coronary conditions, RWJBarnabas Health has created an awareness campaign to educate women regarding symptoms of cardiac-related issues they may experience during pregnancy or following childbirth.

In conjunction with Maternal Health Awareness Day, the health system will host a series of professional educational events across its facilities throughout the week to continue to raise awareness about maternal health and safety, with a particular focus on the management of hypertension and cardiac disease.

Maternal Health Awareness Day was created in 2017 by the state of New Jersey to raise awareness and provide education to both health care providers and families about maternal health. Since then, a statewide patient safety initiative led by the New Jersey Hospital Association found that collaborative efforts by the state’s birthing hospitals are estimated to have averted more than 10,000 C-sections over five years.

“Because RWJBarnabas Health delivers more babies than any other health system in New Jersey, we are uniquely positioned to drive meaningful change, and we are proud to engage with a range of community partners to provide the most comprehensive care for women across the state,” Suzanne Spernal, vice president of women’s services at RWJBarnabas Health and co-chair of the New Jersey Perinatal Quality Collaborative, a multiyear CDC-funded initiative, said. “We are committed to partnering with and empowering women and families with knowledge and support throughout their birthing journeys — from the moment they consider starting a family to ongoing postpartum care. Comprehensive, wraparound care results in better long-term health outcomes for both mothers and babies and helps us address health disparities.”

Over the past year, RWJBarnabas Health has received numerous national accolades for its maternal health services and outcomes.