Two HSC programs to host maternal health conference centered on fourth trimester

Maternal Health Conference Save The Date 2160 × 1080 Px 1024x512In the U.S., more than 20% of maternal deaths during pregnancy and the first year after childbirth are because of drug use, suicide or homicide, according to a study funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

In the absence of access to mental health services, many women who recently gave birth turn to self-medicating with illegal substances or misusing prescription opioids for conditions such as anxiety, states a report from the National Partnership for Women and Families.

These staggering statistics will be among the topics discussed during The Fourth Trimester Maternal Health Conference taking place from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday at the Lena Pope Amon Carter Event Center, 3200 Sanguinet St. The free event will be hosted by The University of North Texas Health Science Center’s Healthy Start Program and SaferCare Texas.

Dr. Teresa Wagner
Dr. Teresa Wagner

“Mental health conditions leading to suicide and overdose poisoning from substance use disorders are the No. 1 cause of maternal death, accounting for 23% of maternal mortality across the country,” said Dr. Teresa Wagner, interim director of SaferCare Texas, HSC’s patient-safety-focused department.

Healthy Start is an initiative within HSC’s Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine that provides services to improve women’s and families’ health before, during and after pregnancy, and support families in caring for their infants through the first two years of life. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration.

The event’s keynote speaker will be Khanay Y. Turner, deputy executive director of the Barbara Jordan Leadership Institute, a nonpartisan organization founded and led by Black women that provides a comprehensive approach to grassroots community activism.

The conference will feature other national speakers who will address a wide range of topics, including how to abate postpartum morbidity and mortality, how to recognize post-partum depression symptoms and screening in the pediatric setting, the use of the monitoring app called What About Mom?, and postpartum self-care highlighting evidence-based practices.

Up to 78% of maternal deaths occur in the postpartum phase of childbirth, also known as the fourth trimester. The U.S. has the highest maternal death rate among the world’s developed nations — a rate that continues to rise at the same time it’s remained stable or dropped in other parts of the world. More than half of those deaths are preventable, according to several studies.

HSC staff members also will be connecting with the community by sharing their journeys with postpartum depression. SaferCare Texas clinical executive Jennifer Barrow hopes that her personal story can help current and future moms know the importance of self-care.

“Many are ashamed to ask for help because they feel like, ‘This is supposed to be the best moment of my life,’ but they are struggling with happiness internally,” Barrow said. “I hope mothers feel empowered to ask for help and not feel ashamed of their postpartum depression.”

Those interested in attending the free conference can register here.

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