Between 1998 and 2009, the rate of serious complications like heart attack, stroke, severe bleeding and kidney failure during or after childbirth roughly doubled among U.S. women, according to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Experts link this to a number of factors. More women are giving birth at older ages, are obese or have certain health conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes. There are also more young women with serious conditions, like congenital heart defects, who are surviving and having children.
Heart problems were the most common cause of death, with the need for cardiac surgery during or after delivery showing a dramatic rise over time. Still, these cases are rare. Just five of 10,000 women needed a heart procedure during delivery, but that is up 75% from a decade before.
To support the needs of high-risk pregnant mothers, Torrance Memorial Medical Center recently became the first hospital in the South Bay to require its registered nurses and laborists (obstetricians who stand in for a patient’s personal obstetrician in case of emergency) in the Labor & Delivery and Mother Baby units to receive Advanced Cardiac Life Support Obstetric (ACLS-OB) training.
ACLS-OB takes the American Heart Association’s ACLS training one step further with drills and scenarios specific to obstetrics. The 16-hour course addresses abnormal cardiac rhythms, emergency medications, demonstration of basic life support skills, evaluation, skill and decision-making ability to manage cardiac complications during delivery. In total, 135 Torrance Memorial nurses and laborists have received the special certification.
So far, the team has been fortunate to not have to use this training on a new mother. However, knowing the entire team is well prepared should provide extra peace of mind for patients and their families, should that need arise.
For information about birthing services at Torrance Memorial, including classes and tours, please call 310-517-4711 or visit torrancememorial.org/MaternityServices.