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PRETTY LADY CHRONICLES: Maternal Health & Heart Failure

Last updated: April 2022

Nearly 20 years after my own maternal health crisis I’ve been witnessing a heightened sense of awareness surrounding what is now considered a public health issue. Alarming reports have said that the United States is the worst developed country to give birth in. As one of the wealthiest nations, how is this possible, and what can we do about it?1

As other reports break down the maternal mortality rate by state I come to realize there’s no escaping this. Being a resident of both Georgia and Indiana; I have a direct link to two of the three worst states as it relates to maternal mortality. Although Georgia remains one of thirteen states without postpartum Medicaid expansion, the Governor has introduced three budget items that may affect future maternal health outcomes.1

My heart, my voice

While postpartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM) has often been referred to as a “rare” condition, cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of maternal mortality. This “rare” distinction may be a contributing factor to the lack of awareness, misdiagnosis, or understanding of how to treat PPCM as mothers go undiagnosed.

Women's long-term cardiovascular health is generally understudied and not well-understood. For example, adverse pregnancy outcomes like gestational diabetes and preterm birth might have long-lasting implications on cardiovascular health. Some experts believe a life span study is needed to help paint a clearer picture.2

Although understudied, with preterm birth and PPCM lived experience I have firsthand knowledge of the long-term effects maternal health may have on cardiovascular well-being. If I can prevent just one mother from sharing this experience, then I must use my voice to advocate and spread awareness to impact change. As it stands, the proposed budget items recently introduced need legislative support.

A letter to my legislatures

My name is Tina Marie Marsden. At the age of 28, I was diagnosed with postpartum cardiomyopathy (also known as PPCM). Early warning signs during and after pregnancy were missed in my case. Reports have shown that cardiomyopathy is a leading cause of maternal mortality, which means I could’ve easily been a statistic without proper care.

While persevering through my pregnancy-related cardiovascular illness; I eventually needed a mechanical heart pump or LVAD just to sustain life. I recently celebrated 10 years with my mechanical heart pump, which clearly shows a maternal health crisis can have lifelong consequences.

Sadly, today many women continue to face dangers including death due to misdiagnosed and untreated pregnancy-related conditions. 60% percent of maternal deaths are preventable. However, due to barriers such as access to healthcare our maternal mortality rate continues to rise.1

Access to healthcare is vital for early diagnosis & treatment of pregnancy-related medical conditions, which is necessary to effectively address maternal mortality.

Sincerely,

Tina Marie Marsden

A new day

Though I’m torn by the loss many families have endured; I remain hopeful that we are on the path to a new horizon. Through efforts such as postpartum Medicaid expansion, new mothers will have access to care! This means early diagnosis, treatment of pregnancy-related cardiovascular conditions; reduction in the lasting effects and saving lives!

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