Apr 9, 2024 - News

How one Triangle hospital is using bracelets to improve maternal health

Bracelets that say: "I just gave birth"

Photo: Courtesy of UNC Health REX

Mothers who give birth at UNC REX Hospital in Raleigh are now going home with bracelets that let people know they've recently given birth.

Why it matters: The "I Gave Birth" initiative aims to raise awareness about the wellbeing of new mothers and increase the vigilance of potential health issues that can arise in the 12 weeks postpartum, which is sometimes referred to as the fourth trimester.

The big picture: North Carolina had the 20th highest rate of maternal mortality in the U.S. between 2018 and 2020 — and around two-thirds of pregnancy-related deaths occur within 42 days postpartum, according to research from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Driving the news: Mothers at UNC REX, one of the busiest birthing centers in the state, started getting "I Gave Birth" bracelets this month.

  • The bracelets are meant to alert others — including emergency personnel — about the mother's status.
  • Mothers and family members are also given educational materials on the warning signs of complications, like chest pain, swollen legs, uncontrollable bleeding and fever.

Zoom in: The "I Gave Birth" initiative was started at ECU Health Medical Center in Greenville before expanding to other facilities in eastern North Carolina.

  • Data collected at ECU around bracelet and education distribution found that obstetrical-related readmissions to the hospital fell from 2.24% in 2019 to 1.47% in 2022, according to a study in the North Carolina Medical Journal.
  • The study noted a "direct correlation" between the decrease and the distribution of educational materials provided to patients and family members, which contributed to better care.

Zoom out: Novant Health, based in Charlotte, also rolled out the "I Gave Birth" initiative systemwide last month, a spokesperson told Axios.

  • Women who gave birth at Novant's hospitals in Charlotte, Winston-Salem and coastal markets receive a bracelet when they go home.

What they're saying: April Lalumiere, director of women's and children's services at UNC REX, told Axios there is a tendency to overlook a mother's health after the arrival of a baby.

  • "The more informed our patients are about these things they need to be paying attention to," she said, "the more apt they're able to advocate for themselves, and their partners are able to advocate for them as well."

Editor's note: We've updated this story with details from Novant Health.

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