Pregnant women in the U.S. are being obliged to have their blood pressure screened and monitored during and after their pregnancy in response to the rise in maternal mortality in the country.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued a draft recommendation proposing a mandatory screening for hypertensive disorders in pregnant women. The volunteer panel also urged healthcare providers to monitor pregnant patients’ blood pressure starting early in their pregnancy and continuing up to six weeks after childbirth.
It’s the first time the task force proposed the expansion of screening recommendations to include hypertensive disorders among pregnant women, according to CNN.
The draft is consistent with a previous statement issued in 2017 that recommended blood pressure screening and monitoring throughout pregnancy.
Task force member Dr. Esa Davis, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, told CNN that blood pressure measurements were already recommended during prenatal visits.
“The difference is now really highlighting the importance of that — that this is a single approach that is very effective,” Davis noted.
“Since the process of screening and the clinical management is similar for all the hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, we’re broadening looking at screening for all of the hypertensive disorders, so gestational hypertension, preeclampsia, eclampsia,” she added.
The draft recommendation came at a time when the U.S. is struggling with record-high pregnancy-related deaths. The country recorded the highest rate among industrialized nations.
Among the leading causes of pregnancy-related deaths is hypertension, with the New York Times reporting that blood pressure disorders in pregnant women have doubled in prevalence in the past three decades. The disorders were found to be the leading cause of death among Native American and Black women during and after pregnancy.
“Our moms are dying,” the task force’s vice chair Dr. Wanda Nicholson told the Times, adding that the proposal seeks “to call attention to the racial disparities in maternal deaths and morbidity.”
The task force indicated in its recommendation that with moderate certainty, screening for hypertensive disorders in pregnant moms has a substantial net benefit.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published data last year showing that between 2017 and 2019, the prevalence of hypertensive disorders among delivery hospitalizations increased to 15.9% from 13.3%. The highest prevalence was recorded among Black women (20.9%) and American Indian and Alaska Native women (16.4%).