There are still significant disparities in access to care and outcomes for certain populations.
The Stark Reality of Disparities
810 women die every day due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth, mostly from preventable or treatable causes (WHO). Moreover, for every woman who dies of pregnancy-related causes, many more suffer from long-term health problems and disabilities.
The burden of maternal death and illness is not evenly distributed among different groups of women:
- In the United States, Black women are 3 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women (CDC).
- In China, women in western rural areas have lower rates of antenatal care than women in urban areas (BMC Public Wealth)
- In sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, where 86% of global maternal deaths occur, women often lack access to essential maternal health services such as skilled birth attendance and emergency obstetric care (WHO)
Factors such as poverty, lack of access to healthcare, BMI and pre-existing health conditions, and discrimination are responsible. These factors influence women’s capacity to make informed decisions regarding their health. They impact their ability to access affordable and high-quality pre-during-post pregnancy care.
There is an urgent need for coordinated and comprehensive actions at many levels to address these disparities.
Improving the healthcare system
The coverage and quality of maternal health services should be enhanced. Right from family planning and antenatal care to delivery and postnatal care. This includes ensuring all women have access to skilled birth attendance, obstetric care, respectful maternity care, postpartum family planning, behavioral health services, and social support.
This strategy aims to provide comprehensive care that meets the diverse needs and preferences of women. Improving the continuum of maternal health can improve women’s health to a great extent.
Poverty, lack of access to healthcare, and discrimination play a significant role in the disparities in maternal and fetal outcomes. One way to address them is through community-based interventions. By providing transportation to medical appointments and increasing access to healthy food, women could have healthier pregnancies regardless of their social status.
This involves investing in human resources for health, infrastructure, equipment, supplies, information systems, referral mechanisms, and quality improvement initiatives. Strengthening the health system for maternal health can improve access, quality, efficiency, and equity of maternal health services.
Increasing Diversity in the Health Workforce
Patients are more likely to receive satisfaction when they are treated by providers who share their racial or ethnic backgrounds. Thus, increasing diversity in the MFM workforce is critical to reducing disparities in care.
It’s also important to address biases that may exist within the field. Training MFM providers to recognize and avoid them ensures that all patients receive equitable care. This includes education on cultural competency and implicit bias. As well as support to encourage providers to confront and address any biases they may hold. By taking these steps, we are working towards building a future of maternal care that is truly equitable and inclusive for all women.
Incorporating Technology in Maternal Fetal Medicine Care
In remote or underserved areas, technology is already making a significant impact in reducing disparities in maternal and fetal medicine (MFM) care. Telemedicine, for instance, has emerged as a crucial tool in providing care to women, effectively bridging the access gap.
Telemedicine, powered by digital communication, enables remote patients to connect with specialists, ensuring timely care. This is particularly beneficial for women in remote areas where access to healthcare services is limited.
Moreover, the utilization of technology such as point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) with AI guidance revolutionizes prenatal care in underserved regions, making it more accessible and affordable. This cutting-edge technology assists ultrasound practitioners in identifying high-risk pregnancies at the right time and providing personalized care plans to improve outcomes.
Investing in Research for Better Outcomes
Investing in research to better understand and address disparities in maternal health care. This includes:
- Conducting studies to identify effective interventions.
- Collecting data to monitor progress and ensure that all women have access to high-quality care.
- Generating evidence-based knowledge and solutions to inform policy and practice for improving maternal health outcomes, especially for marginalized and vulnerable groups
Investing in research for maternal health enhances the relevance, rigor, and impact of research findings. It will foster learning and innovation among researchers, practitioners, and policymakers.
One area of research that is particularly promising is precision medicine. It involves tailoring treatments to an individual patient’s genetic information, lifestyle, and environment. This approach helps identify women who are at a higher risk of complications and provides personalized care plans to reduce adverse outcomes.
Addressing the disparities in maternal health is a moral imperative and an investment for sustainable development. Improving maternal health can have positive ripple effects on the health and well-being of women, children, families, and societies. Therefore, it is time to act collectively and to ensure that no woman is left behind in her journey to motherhood.
At Sonio, we are building together the future of Maternal care with fewer disparities. By leveraging technology and data, we aim to bridge the gap in maternal healthcare and reduce the inequities that exist.