In a shift from our regularly scheduled bi-weekly news roundup, this Friday we're taking a look back at some of the biggest news stories from the year in maternal health. 

 

Research published in Health Affairs showed that Medicaid expansions led to a reduction in postpartum hospitalizations, while a study from researchers at Ohio University indicated that the digital divide in healthcare comes down to health literacy rather than broadband access. 

STAT News reported on the red tape that restricts access to digital tools by low-income populations despite its demonstrated benefits, interviewing Dr. Katie Marko from GW-MFA on her use of Babyscripts for underserved populations. 

The New York Times highlighted the benefits of frequent blood pressure monitoring throughout pregnancy, and also reported on the crisis facing rural maternity hospitals and the women who live within their service area.  Whether or not a woman experiences a life-threatening pregnancy complication, a study found, can come down to where they live. 

Babyscripts made an appearance on the front page of the New York Times Sunday edition in the article Maternity’s Most Dangerous Time: After New Mothers Come Home.The article highlights the dangers that mothers face in the critical period between childbirth and a child’s first birthday, and the role of remote monitoring for supporting mothers and providers.

The Wall Street Journal published "Digital-Health Startups Take Aim at Maternal-Health Crisis," featuring comments from Babyscripts CEO Anish Sebastian and clinical champions Dr. Kathryn Marko of GW-MFA and Dr. Kathaleen Barker of Baystate Health. The article focused on the potential of virtual care to fill the gaps left by provider and staffing shortages, and overcome barriers to access fueled by social determinants of health and other challenges (the healthcare workforce lost 145K+ providers between 2020 and 2021).

The Office of Management and Budget proposed new standards for race and ethnicity data collection from pregnant women, as the Washington Post reported that giving birth in the US is getting deadlier for all races, but especially minority women (this year, the U.S. Maternal Mortality Rate hit its highest levels since 1965).

Blood pressure monitoring was shown to be an aid for managing diabetes in pregnancy as well as staving off future heart health risks, and a new test was approved to predict preeclampsia. 

A report on the State of Motherhood gave much-needed insight into the mother's experience of the healthcare system, and what they expect from their maternity care. The National Maternal Mental Health hotline received 12,000 calls and texts in its first year and industry experts considered whether current requirements for maternal mental health screenings are sufficient for a growing crisis. 

CNN reported that maternal deaths in US hospitals are on the decline, but birthing complications are rising. Meanwhile, the U.S. infant mortality rate is rising for the first time in 20 years.

Results of a randomized control trial published in a special equity edition of the Green Journal show that remote monitoring through Babyscripts improved blood pressure collection for patients with postpartum hypertension, compared to monitoring in-person at a doctor's appointment, and remote monitoring also eliminated racial disparities observed in office BP collection between White and Black patients.

While much of the data released this year is discouraging, the availability and awareness of the data is encouraging. An increase in exposure to the issues contributing to poor maternal health outcomes in the U.S. is a positive step toward moving the needle and offering better quality care to pregnant and postpartum women nationwide. 

Interested in what is ahead for 2024? Check out Anish Sebastian's article in Medical Economics: Four Health Technology Trends to Watch for in 2024 (and a Look Back at 2023)

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