Dying to Have a Baby: The Death of a 56-Year Old Mother of Twins

Lisa Swinton McLaughlin

It 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.

Erica Morales Delivers Four Babies and Then Dies: Another Pregnancy Tragedy

Erica Morales’ last Facebook message was dated January 15th and simply said, “Prayers please. 5 o’clock C Section.” Now, she speaks from Heaven.

Erica was 36 year old and wanted to become a mother after marrying her soul mate, Carols, in 2007. She worked at the University of Phoenix and was also a real estate agent. Carlos worked in manufacturing. Like millions of other couples, they desired a family but encountered stumbling blocks. Through infertility treatments, their dream came true. Erica became pregnant with four babies.

Carrying four babies at the age of 36 is a serious affair, especially if it’s a first pregnancy. One anticipates that the babies will come early and the risk of developing high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia is significant.

Pre-eclampsia is a deadly pregnancy condition that involves high blood pressure, swelling and protein in the urine. It can cause strokes and women die. The only treatment is delivering the baby because there is something in the placenta that keeps the blood pressure high until it is removed.

Although the hospital will not release the cause of death because of patient privacy issues, one can assume that Erica possibly died from either pre-eclampsia or a hemorrhage. Her blood pressure was reportedly 190/90 which caused her to be admitted to the hospital at 31 weeks. She had a cesarean section and according to her best friends, “never got a chance to hold the babies.”She delivered at a hospital that has high risk specialists so it’s assumed that she received the best care however I do have some concerns:

• I hope the decision to deliver the babies wasn’t delayed because of their prematurity
• I hope someone recognized the subtle signs of pre-eclampsia
• I hope the hospital did simulations or practice drills prior to Erica’s delivery in anticipation of a potential problem

Despite all of our medical advances and sophisticated technology, women are still dying in childbirth. It’s frustrating and it hurts.

Does Robotic Surgery Improve Your Chances of Becoming Pregnant?

 

 

Robotic surgery courtesy of intuitive surgical

A recent article in the June 2013 issue of ObGyn News captured my attention because it discussed robotic surgery as treatment for uterine fibroids.  Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors in the uterus that affect 1 out of 5 women and African American women are affected three times more often than Caucasian women. Fibroids can cause heavy bleeding, severe pain and are a major cause of infertility.

Initially, fibroids are treated conservatively with medication if a woman wants to conceive. However if she develops excessive pain or bleeding, then surgical procedures including hysteroscopic resection (removing sections of the fibroids through a scope), uterine embolization (blocking the blood supply of fibroids), laparoscopic (“belly-button” surgery) or “open-case” myomectomy (removing the fibroids from the uterus) are offered.

At a recent meeting of the Society of Gynecologic Surgeons, Dr. Lauren Rascoff discussed the success of robot surgery in helping women become pregnant. A medical study looked at 198 women who had the robot procedure and over half (103) of them attempted to get pregnant after the procedure was over. 73 women successfully became pregnant and delivered a total of 81 babies. Most women were approximately 37 years old and weighed no more than 145 pounds.

Robot (aka robotic surgery) has come under fire lately for being too expensive regarding hysterectomies because it does not seem to have an advantage over women who had a hysterectomy with a laparoscope, therefore the insurance companies are not willing to pay for them. However there are few studies that compared a traditional myomectomy with a robotic procedure until now. If you’re an older woman having difficulty becoming pregnant because of fibroids, then a robotic myomectomy might be an option to be discussed with your healthcare provider. Anything that improves a woman’s chance of becoming pregnant is certainly worthy of discussion.

Are you able to recognize red flags that could occur during your pregnancy? If not, then pick up a copy of The Smart Mother’s Guide to a Better Pregnancy. Remember, a healthy pregnancy doesn’t just happen; it takes a smart mother who knows what to do.