The 4th trimester: Why a hybrid healthcare model is the only way to decrease maternal morbidities 

May 8, 2024

It should be fairly obvious that delivering a baby is a significant health event. So many articles and studies are published regarding the growing number of postpartum morbidities along with their long-term side effects. And yet maternal mortality is worse than our previous generations. Women feel worse. Why?

Being a new parent is hard 

Time recently published an article that talked about ‘normalizing’ the postpartum struggle, stating that instead of treating or preventing medical conditions–that could have adverse outcomes like depression or anxiety–our society simply accepts them as reality. And while families and women feeling less alone in their struggles is a good thing, simply saying “we all feel this way” isn’t actually helping. Thyroiditis for example, a serious postpartum condition, affects 5% of moms – however, it often goes untreated and overlooked because exhaustion (one of the main symptoms) is just what being a parent is like, right? 

A major symptom of anemia is also exhaustion, but if that is left untreated it can be life-threatening. Long term, anemia increases a patient’s risk of postpartum depression, affects cognitive function and can even cause heart failure.

But it isn't just the ‘parenting is hard’ mentality that is hurting women postpartum. Healthcare systems are not set up to appropriately monitor moms or caregivers in the thick of the 4th trimester. According to the March of Dimes 40% of women completely skip their 6-week postpartum visit–which is the only pre scheduled check-in for caregivers. It isn’t hard to understand why this happens–lack of childcare support, being exhausted, or simply not wanting to get off a newly established routine with a newborn are common reasons. But that doesn’t mean we just forget about those moms, does it? 

That same Time article states 88% of women feel unprepared for what’s to come postpartum. But why do we leave it up to them to prepare for in the first place? 

A lack of intervention has life changing effects 

A new published study by JAMA Internal Medicine says we may be even further down the rabbit hole than we’d like when it comes to postpartum women’s health. In fact, their research showed women who experienced “adverse pregnancy outcomes” also experienced an increased mortality rate that remained elevated nearly 40 years later. They listed some of these adverse outcomes as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. The national rate for gestational diabetes alone has been increasing year over year, up to over 8% in 2021. The same goes for preeclampsia, experienced by 5% to 7% of pregnant persons.

So what does this mean for women long term?  Women diagnosed with gestational diabetes are seven times more likely to suffer from type II diabetes. And more seriously, it means they are more likely to die from things like respiratory disorders or cardiovascular issues even after their babies are well into adulthood. Similarly to conditions like thyroiditis or anemia, the only way to stop this is by consistent monitoring and follow-up care. 

So what can we do

In a time when access to healthcare is so tough, in the United States the average wait time for a non-urgent women’s health appointment is over 30 days, it seems the only way to move forward is to think outside the box. And while healthcare autonomy is so important, that doesn’t mean it’s OK to leave women and families up to their own devices when it comes to serious medical conditions. 

Telehealth and virtual care for new parents is essential. By removing all barriers, women are more likely to find times that work for them and we know consistent monitoring can prevent conditions from becoming serious in the first place. 

But it’s not an either/or scenario. SimpliFed acts as a hybrid solution to this healthcare problem offering virtual appointments and monitoring on top of in- person care via our partners and clients. Care when it’s needed most maximizes health outcomes and not to mention creates workflow efficiencies across the board, right?

Want to be a part of the change? Contact SimpliFed today to join our mission