Lisa Swinton McLaughlinIt happened again; another heart-breaking horror story. In less than 2 weeks after reporting about the death of Erica Morales, a first-time 36 year old mother who died after delivering quadruplets, Lisa Swinton McLaughlin died at age 56, one week after delivering twins. Their seminaries are uncanny. Both were women of color. Both wanted children desperately. Both were over age 35. Both had infertility treatment. Both spent many years trying to get pregnant. Both eventually became pregnant with more than one baby and both are now dead.

When we think of maternal death, images of impoverished, third-world countries with hard-to-pronounce names come to mind, not the United States. Yet American women DO die in childbirth, despite our advances in technology and medicine.

Lisa was by training both an attorney and a physician. She worked as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Nebraska and 13 years later went to medical school and ultimately worked in a high-level position for the Red Cross. One might call her a “high-achiever” but the one thing she desperately wanted was to be a mother and have children. As a physician, she knew the potential complications but forged ahead down that slippery slope towards motherhood. Sadly, she died of a bowel obstruction, mistakenly thinking that her abdominal pain was from the C-Section.

No one can or should judge Lisa’s decision to become pregnant at age 56 but everyone should know the facts:

  • Older women have an increased risk of complications during pregnancy, especially if they are pregnant with more than one baby
  • Fertility treatments are risky
  • Adoption is a viable option for older women seeking motherhood. Just ask Diane Keaton (adopted her first child at age 50), Viola Davis, Shonda Rhimes, Meg Ryan and yours truly
  • The use of surrogates is also an option if you can afford it. Angela Bassett, Nicole Kidman and Sarah Jessica Parker are members of that sacred club.

It’s admirable when a woman attempts to get pregnant, but it’s a tragedy when she dies in the process.