Joint Commission educational campaign teaches how to advocate for safe care during and after pregnancy

Feb. 17, 2021

The Joint Commission announced it released Speak Up for New Parents, a new educational campaign that teaches how to advocate for safe care during and after pregnancy. The campaign helps new parents become aware of warning signs and symptoms that may indicate medical help is needed. 

As the United States is the only developed country with a rising maternal mortality rate, The Joint Commission is focused on improving maternal health. The Speak Up campaign provides information on how to spot signs of hypertension and preeclampsia, hemorrhage, infection, and depression, as well as tips to address each of these medical issues.  Before, during and after pregnancy, mothers may have high blood pressure, also called hypertension. It can occur with preeclampsia, a serious condition that can affect the baby and lead to other problems. Warning signs include swelling, headaches, pain in lower back or shoulders, pain in upper right side not related to contractions, nausea, sudden weight gain, vision changes or shortness of breath. Mothers should never miss a prenatal visit, ensure obstetric (OB) providers check urine for protein, keep a record of blood pressure and count the baby’s “kicks.”

Hemorrhage is severe bleeding during or immediately after birth. Warning signs include soaking a pad in less than an hour, developing large, quarter-sized blood clots, dizziness after getting up from a chair or bed, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, weakness and more. Early in pregnancy, mothers should let their OB provider know if they have anemia, a history of bleeding, have received blood or if they plan to decline receiving blood during an emergency. 

New mothers are at risk for infection. Warning signs include low-grade fever, chills, lower abdominal pain, muscle aches, fatigue, foul-smelling discharge, warm and painful redness near surgical incision site, headaches, paleness, loss of appetite or rapid heart rate. Mothers should wash their hands often, watch to see that caregivers wash their hands and ask visitors to wash their hands. 

It is not unusual for new mothers to experience the baby blues. Postpartum depression affects 10-20 percent of new mothers. Warning signs include difficulty eating or sleeping, feelings of helplessness or sadness, not wanting to get out of bed, avoiding contact or bonding with baby, or thoughts of harming oneself or baby. It is important to talk about these signs and feelings with your OB provider, and there are resources to help. 

If mothers experience any of these warning signs, they should call their OB provider or nurse immediately. 

“It is critical to educate all new parents on how to spot warning signs for medical issues that may arise during and after pregnancy as it can help save a mother or baby’s life,” says Ana Pujols McKee, MD, executive vice president, chief medical officer, and chief diversity and inclusion officer, The Joint Commission. “Whether it’s your first child or third child, the new Speak Up for New Parents campaign provides helpful tips to recognize these warning signs and encourages parents to become advocates in their own care. If you think something is wrong, please speak up to your care team.”

As part of its efforts to address maternal health issues, The Joint Commission implemented new requirements to help improve the quality and safety of care provided to women during all stages of pregnancy and postpartum, effective Jan. 1, 2021. In addition, The Joint Commission began to publicly report on two Perinatal Care (PC) measures in January 2021. 

The Speak Up campaign includes an informational poster in both English and Spanish, as well as an animated video that features examples on how to spot warning signs and prevent serious complications before and after pregnancy. Organizations are free to reproduce and disseminate Speak Up for New Parents materials if they credit The Joint Commission. 

The Joint Commission has the release.