University of Pittsburgh Finds Racial Differences in Postpartum Blood Pressure in New Study

Black citizens of the United States are constantly front and center when there are talks about disparities across the spectrum of the Black experience. From Maternal Health Outcomes to studies of the overall lived experience of Black folks in a study conducted to bring attention to inequalities experienced by race and gender in Pittsburgh ,Pa

A new study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh reveals a new finding. In the weeks immediately after giving birth, Black mothers/parents with hypertensive disorders have a less rapid decline in blood pressure than white women. According to researchers this an important finding in trying to understand why Black women are more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications, according to new research from scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital.

There is however a much broader conversation to be had still. The take away is not to imply that black bodies are broken or physically inferior to their non- black neighbors. Many studies that are conducted on racial disparities tend to look for the cause of the disparity within the subject instead of the systems or social determinants that affect their day to day lives. The differences in lived experiences over the course of a Black “would be parents” life prior to conception will absolutely have a profound affect on ones health. It’s called weathering. The concept of weathering suggests that the constant presence of racism, discrimination and micro aggressions at both systemic and non systemic levels erode the physical and mental health of a Black person. It would be irresponsible to imply that the cause and solutions for the Maternal Mortality rates amongst Black Women and Birthing Folks exist solely within these parents bodies.

As reported in JAMA Network Open, these findings are the first to show this race-related difference in a large cohort of women who were tracked in the six weeks after giving birth.

We know Black women are at increased risk of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, and we know this contributes to the higher morbidity and mortality rates as compared to white women,” explained Alisse Hauspurg, M.D., assistant professor at the Pitt School of Medicine and a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist at UPMC Magee. “Understanding the trajectory of blood pressure decline after a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy might be important to preventing these complications.”

Hypertensive disorders, such as preeclampsia and gestational hypertension, occur in 10-20% of pregnancies in America. Women who experience these disorders often continue to have high blood pressure after delivery, which can increase the risk of seizures, strokes and even maternal death. Hauspurg and colleagues enrolled 1,077 women who had a hypertensive disorder during pregnancy into UPMC Magee’s remote blood pressure monitoring program. The program provides women with a blood pressure cuff and prompts them to take their own blood pressure and heart rate readings via an app, which automatically enters the numbers into the patient’s electronic medical records.

The tracking rapidly detects concerning trends in postpartum women before their situation becomes critical.Study participants contributed 17,146 blood pressure readings in the first six weeks postpartum. Researchers found blood pressure decreases rapidly in the first three weeks after birth and then stabilizes. However, a substantial proportion of women still have high blood pressure six weeks postpartum. Compared with white women, Black women have a less rapid decline in blood pressure postpartum, resulting in higher blood pressure by the end of the six-week program. At that point, 68% of Black women met criteria for stage 1 or stage 2 hypertension compared with 51% of white women.

Hauspurg explained one limitation to the study is the remote monitoring program concluded at six weeks postpartum. Researchers are interested in future studies that look at the blood pressure trajectories beyond this time period.“Our study supports the use of remote monitoring for our high-risk patients. It’s critical we catch a potential crisis through a safe, effective and convenient mobile format versus seeing our patients in the emergency room,” said Hyagriv Simhan, M.D., executive vice chair of obstetrical services at UPMC Magee.

The remote monitoring platform integral to the program was supplied by Vivify Health. UPMC was an investor in Vivify at the time of the study.