Many Nurses Lack Knowledge of Health Risks for New Mothers, Study Finds

ProPublica, August 17, 2017

A nationwide survey shows that postpartum nurses often fail to warn mothers about potentially life-threatening complications, mainly because they need more education themselves.

Postpartum Nurses

This article first appeared August 17, 2017 on ProPublica.

by Nina Martin, ProPublica, and Renee Montagne, NPR

In recent months, mothers who nearly died in the hours and days after giving birth have repeatedly told ProPublica and NPR that their doctors and nurses were often slow to recognize the warning signs that their bodies weren't healing properly. Now, an eye-opening new study substantiates some of these concerns.

The nationwide survey of 372 postpartum nurses, published Tuesday in the MCN/American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing, found that many of them were ill-informed about the dangers new mothers face. Needing more education themselves, they were unable to fulfill their critical role of educating moms about symptoms like painful swelling, headaches, heavy bleeding and breathing problems that could indicate potentially life-threatening complications.

By failing to alert new mothers to such risks, the peer-reviewed study found, nurses may be missing an opportunity to help reduce the maternal mortality rate in the U.S., the highest among affluent nations. An estimated 700 to 900 women die in the U.S. every year from pregnancy- and childbirth-related causes and 65,000 nearly die, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The rates are highest for black mothers and women in rural areas. In a recent CDC Foundation analysis of data from four states, nearly 60 percent of maternal deaths were preventable.

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