Pregnant? You need a health advocate

The nurse leaned in with plenty of disdain and said, “You seem VERY suspicious of the medical establishment.”

Yes, perhaps because you keep coming into my room and asking if this second child I’m birthing is a product of IVF. No, per the chart you keep forgetting to look at, that’s my first son. And let’s get one thing clear: he’s not a “product” of anything, except love and hope.


(You can read about my journey through infertility – in this other post.)

Then there’s the issue of the doctor walking in and announcing, “I know you’re progressing nicely because we just checked you.” Meanwhile, my husband has been taking meticulous notes. Of every interaction between the hospital staff and me.

He pipes up, “Actually, you haven’t checked her since 10am. That’s 4 hours ago. And at that time her vitals were…” He trails off as the doctor nods to the nurses to do their thing. This happens three more times. Thankfully, #RockStarDad keeps doing his lawyer thing: taking detailed, brilliant notes, and keeping everyone in line.

Then there are the memories from my C-section with baby number 1, where I lost a liter of blood. Because the surgery involved slicing through the placenta with its stores of pulsing, life-giving blood (hooray for complete placenta previa.)

Do you know what a liter is? It’s TWO of those water bottles hipsters tote around all day. It’s ONE of those 1-liter (duh) bottles of Coke. It’s HALF of a 2-liter (duh) bottle of Pepsi. Y’all, that’s a lot of blood. That no one mentioned.

My husband finally figured out what happened because the post-delivery nurses whispered LOUDLY about it. He eventually confronted the doctor, who brushed it off, because, “She’s fine.” Meaning, I didn’t need a transfusion. Meaning, I was weak but strong. Meaning, why scare me with extraneous information when I seemed fine.

The doctor had a point. A bit of the placebo effect – tell the patient she’s great and she’ll rise to the occasion. Tell the patient life sucks and who knows what might happen?

I’m forever grateful to my husband for his diligence to monitor EVERYTHING – before, during and after labor.


Here’s another story of a husband who did his best to care for his wife. Except ** TRIGGER WARNING ** this story doesn’t end well. Tragedy struck this sweet family in the midst of joy. A husband lost his dear wife, yet gained a daughter. The momma had HELLP syndrome and the medical staff dismissed the clues. Hers was a devastating, and preventable, loss – it’s unimaginable what this new father went through.

I have a friend who had HELLP syndrome and her husband is entirely responsible for saving her life and the life of their micro-preemie. You can read her story here (and learn how to care for NICU families) – it’s an incredible tribute to the power of having a partner with you during your journey through pregnancy and labor. Be that a spouse, friend, doula, or neighbor. You can focus on baby. Your partner can focus on YOU and keeping the medical folks, who should also be focused on you, accountable.

Because recent studies show:

Maternal health is declining in the US.

According to NPR and ProPublica:

In every other wealthy country, and many less affluent ones, maternal mortality rates have been falling; in Great Britain…the rate has declined so dramatically that ‘a man is more likely to die while his partner is pregnant than she is.’ But in the U.S., maternal deaths increased from 2000 to 2014. In a recent analysis by the CDC Foundation, nearly 60 percent of such deaths are preventable.

While maternal mortality is significantly more common among African-Americans, low-income women and in rural areas, pregnancy and childbirth complications kill women of every race and ethnicity, education and income level, in every part of the U.S.


How is this possible? In a first-world country?

NPR and ProPublica continue, “In recent decades, under the assumption that it had conquered maternal mortality, the American medical system has focused more on fetal and infant safety and survival than on the mother’s health and well-being.”

Says Barbara Levy, VP for health policy/advocacy at the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:

“We worry a lot about vulnerable little babies. We don’t pay enough attention to those things that can be catastrophic for women.”


Here comes a dose of politics. Stop reading if you want to. But this is important.

Lots of change is coming out of Washington. With efforts underway to replace the Affordable Health Care Act, women’s health is on the chopping block.

So what’s at risk? Free breast pumps, contraception and mammograms, as well as Medicaid. Y’all, half of all babies born in the US have Medicaid to thank.

Time magazine notes, “The United States already has the highest maternal mortally rate in the developed world and reducing coverage for women is very likely to make the problem worse. ‘It is clear that access to a doctor before and during pregnancy — screening for complications like hypertension and diabetes, having appropriate care during labor and delivery — saves lives and improves health for women and children. It’s the foundation of the future of that family’s health.’”

So, what’s a girl to do?

1. You can fight the system.
God bless the millions of you who do this every day! Calling Senators, signing petitions, holding Washington accountable.

You can even text RESIST to 50409 and Resistbot will contact Senators for you. Super easy. Because the future of health care is definitely one of those we-are-watching, we-will-not-be-silent moments.

2. You can buddy up and get a health advocate.
If you’re pregnant, getting ready to get pregnant, or just had a baby, find an advocate. Be this your spouse, partner, doula, minister, best friend, coworker, neighbor, mailman. Make sure you’ve got a support system – before, during and after labor. And tell your buddy to take notes. To hold medical staff accountable. To ask questions.

Don’t assume your doctor knows best. Because she may be making the rounds at the hospitable and her brain is chock full of facts about the 20 other patients she’s checking on that day. So, let me repeat: TAKE NOTES AND ASK QUESTIONS.

These studies I’ve quoted say there’s lots of focus on babies right now. And that’s crucial. Just make sure the focus is also on YOU, momma.

Because it’s up to us and our loved ones to be just a little suspicious. To make sure the medical establishment is there for babies, and for mommas. Because babies need mommas. And mommas make the world go round.


Share your tips to advocate for women’s health below or on Facebook at MothersRest.


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Love this comment shared on Facebook:

This is so great. Thanks for sharing!!
–Melanie Carrico

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