Heart Safe Motherhood Program boosts access to care for at-risk new mothers

As many as one in 10 pregnant women suffer from preeclampsia, which causes high blood pressure during pregnancy and leading up to delivery.

“Preeclampsia is on the rise here and across the country,” says Cathleen M. Brown, site director for obstetric hospitalists at Chester County Hospital (CCH). While the condition tends to subside upon delivery, blood pressures can worsen even after giving birth.

Pregnant person lying in a hospital bed wearing a face mask looking over a sheet of paper a doctor is showing them.
Nancy Maratea goes through the Heart Safe Motherhood Program brochure with a newly enrolled patient at CCH. (Image: Penn Medicine News)

If a woman’s blood pressure remains elevated, or surges, during the first week after delivering, and if she’s not being properly monitored, she’s at increased risk of experiencing a seizure, stroke, heart attack, organ damage, developing heart disease, going into a coma, or even dying. But a first-of-its-kind program created by Penn Medicine has radically altered how the increasingly common condition is treated.

Heart Safe Motherhood enables doctors to monitor new mothers with high blood pressure remotely, from the comfort of their own home. The program was developed at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where it is now the standard of care for obstetric patients because data showed it significantly improved the ability to care for patients with this condition post discharge, eliminated racial inequities in blood pressure follow-up, and reduced the need for patients to be readmitted with complications. In May, CCH became the fourth Penn Medicine hospital to employ the text message-based program.

Expanding the availability of Heart Safe Motherhood is just one part of a multipronged effort to standardize maternal health care across the health system; ensuring that proven safe practices are carried out consistently everywhere helps to both reduce racial inequities and improve outcomes for all patients.

At CCH, Heart Safe Motherhood was first made available through the summer to eligible patients in the hospital’s OB-GYN clinic, which provides reduced-rate gynecology care, affordable prenatal care, and childbirth deliveries.

“This program has tremendous value because it improves our ability to follow-up with this high-risk segment of patients while streamlining their access to care,” says Brown.

The program will eventually be made available to all eligible patients at CCH, as Penn Medicine is continuing to expand the availability of Heart Safe Motherhood to more patients in more places.

Read more at Penn Medicine News.