somehow in the debate about abortion and the beginning of human life, the physical reality of pregnancy has been disregarded. It’s not just an awkward interlude. Pregnancy puts a strain on the body, sometimes in life-changing or even life-threatening ways. It burdens the heart – in a literal sense. If the US Supreme Court falls Roe to Wade, Allowing states to ban or strictly limit abortion will increase the number of full-term pregnancies, as well as the number of people facing the health risks of pregnancy.
The abortion conversation is about fetal development, from the first pulsating heart cells to viability. Here is what happens to the woman?: By four weeks of pregnancy, her blood volume begins to increase, by 50 percent at the time of delivery. The heart beats faster to pump that extra blood, much of which flows to the uterus, placenta, and kidneys. The kidneys expanding in size, volume and filtration.
Blood clotting gets stronger, peaking before delivery, the way the body protects itself against bleeding, which has always been a major cause of birth-related death. But due to the extra clotting, pregnant women compared to non-pregnant women of reproductive age five times the risk of deep vein thrombosis, a painful and potentially life-threatening clot, usually in the legs. They are three times more likely have a stroke; the the risk is even higher for black women†
in 2020, 861 women died from pregnancy-related causes, usually from: cardiovascular events. About 60,000 women had serious birth-related complications, a figure that does not count serious conditions that occur prenatally or in the months after delivery. About 7 percent of women develop gestational diabetes and have about the same part gestational hypertensionwhich can lead to both immediate and lifelong health problems.
Karen Florio knew all those facts well when she became pregnant at the age of 33. A physician of fetal medicine for mothers in Kansas City, Missouri, specializing in cardio-obstetrics, she has helped many women navigate scary medical scenarios. On occasion, she has advised others about the possibility of aborting a pregnancy due to life-threatening complications. But she couldn’t imagine being in the hospital anytime soon, with her own life-or-death struggle.
Florio had been the proverbial image of health. Before becoming pregnant, she completed an Ironman triathlon. She played college softball. She had no pre-existing conditions. Then, at 28 weeks of pregnancy, her blood pressure peaked to 147/97. †Normal Blood Pressure is 120/80 or less.) She had noticed that her face was swollen and that her weight gain seemed a bit high, given her careful diet. These turned out to be signs of preeclampsia, or persistent high blood pressure during pregnancy or postpartum, which occurs in 5 to 8 percent of all births. “I think I missed all the signs, because it never occurred to me that I could get preeclampsia, even though it is [a condition] I always take care of myself,” she says.
When Florio’s blood pressure rose to 160/100, she developed a headache and spots in her vision. When her baby was delivered by Caesarean section at 31 weeks, mother and child ended up in separate ICUs. The preeclampsia led to brain swelling known as posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome, or PRES†