The Four Trimesters of Pregnancy

United States' Serena Williams makes a forehand return to Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic during their quarterfinal match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Lauren Bloomstein. Kira Johnson. Melody Lynch-Kimery. Serena Williams. 

These four names may seem completely unrelated upon your first, second and even third glance. However, they are all similar in one aspect: they have all had firsthand experience with the U.S.’ poor maternal health care system. 

Half of the people above died because of it. The other half were incredibly close. 

Maternal health in the U.S. is something incredibly overlooked. In fact, out of all developed countries, the U.S. has the worst maternal mortality rates, a number that is rising. Between 1996 and 2013, the maternal mortality rate rose by 136 percent

Other countries in which the maternal mortality rates are rising include Afghanistan, Lesotho and Swaziland. These three countries, in contrast to the U.S., are still developing nations. 

In a developed nation such as the U.S., one would expect maternal health care has been improving over the years. However, it is a problem still impacting millions of women and their families. 

As of 2017 the U.S. had 26.4 deaths per live births. This figure does not encompass the number of women whose health suffered due to what is called fourth trimester problems. These conditions often arise during or after the delivery.  

Some of these conditions include pre-eclampsia, a condition characterized by high blood pressure and possible swelling; cardiomyopathy, which causes the heart muscle to become abnormally enlarged or thickened; as well as blood clots. 

All of these conditions are extremely dangerous and do not discriminate based on any factor, including race, ethnicity and social class. 

While other aspects of medicine progress, it is preposterous that maternal health lags behind. It is essential all women get the maternal health care they need so that their lives are not at risk. 

Women are three times more likely to die in the U.S. during the maternal period than in Canada, and are six times more likely to die than in a Scandinavian country. The maternal period is defined as the time between the start of a woman’s pregnancy to about one year after delivery or termination. 

We cannot continue ignoring the dismal state of maternal health care in this country. This is a problem that affects everyone — many women are physically harmed by this poor system and their families suffer mentally. The importance of maternal health care must be recognized so that the lives of many can be saved and improved immensely. 

In certain U.S. states, this problem is being noticed; between 2006 and 2013, California has lowered its maternal mortality rate by 55 percent. In order to lower this rate, many doctors and nurses in California are being trained to specifically combat any conditions that may arise during or after labor and delivery. Data is also being collected regarding supplies, as well as unnecessary Caesarean section births, both of which contribute to maternal health care problems. 

By identifying these problems and working to combat them, California is decreasing its maternal mortality rate and is ensuring that many women are able to avoid the fourth trimester of pregnancy.  

By providing the proper training for medical personnel as well as through collecting data, the U.S. could dramatically decrease its maternal mortality rate and have the resources to help women so that their lives are not in danger during this period.  

This should be the U.S.’s goal: To provide a safe environment for women. To ensure they do not suffer because of pregnancy complications. To ensure their newborn children do not grow up without a mother due to the poor system. To ensure their families will not have to mourn for their lives, or for their hardships. 


Anika Veeraraghav is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at anika.veeraraghav@uconn.edu.