Interview: Renowned Obstetrician Dr. Priya Agrawal and’s Emily McKhann Discuss The Alarming Risks of Pregnancy and Childbirth

 Did you know that 1,000 women die in the United States every year due to maternal mortality? Or that across the world 800 women die every single day during pregnancy, childbirth (or shortly after)? The statistics are alarming, and quite frankly most of us seem to be in the dark about this important issue. Renowned obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Priya Agrawal, and Emily McKhann, co-founder of joined me recently to discuss the risks of pregnancy and childbirth, how maternal mortality can be prevented, and to discuss how Merck is bringing more awareness to maternal mortality.


Renowned obstetrician and gynecologist, Dr. Priya Agrawal and's Emily McKhann discuss the alarming risks of pregnancy and childbirth.

Renowned obstetrician and gynecologist, Dr. Priya Agrawal and’s Emily McKhann discuss the alarming risks of pregnancy and childbirth.




Candace Rose: What is maternal mortality, and what are the leading causes of maternal mortality?

Dr. Priya Agrawal: “Maternal mortality is when a woman dies during pregnancy; childbirth; or soon after. And 800 women die during pregnancy or childbirth every single day across the world, and that includes the United States. The leading causes are threefold.

One is postpartum hemorrhage, so that’s severe bleeding. Second is preeclampsia, so that’s very high blood pressure during pregnancy. And the third, which is most important for the U.S. is pulmonary embolism, so that’s when you have a clot that goes from your leg (a bit like a clot you can develop on a long flight), goes up to your lung and it can be fatal. It’s a complete outrage that even in the U.S. with all our medical advances and technologies, 1,000 women die every year. But it’s the tip of the iceberg because every 15 minutes a woman suffers from severe complications that nearly led to her death, and that’s why Merck for Mother is making this major commitment of 10 years, 500 million dollars so with the rest of the community we can create a world where no woman needs to die whilst giving life.”

Candace Rose: How can it be prevented?

Dr. Priya Agrawal: “So maternal mortality is one of the oldest, most preventable medical tragedies on the planet. If we do nothing in the next decade, three million women will die during pregnancy and childbirth. And the very first thing all your listeners and viewers can do is actually help us raise awareness of this issue in the U.S. So go to and share your story- your story or the story of someone you love and the day they were born, because there are other women who aren’t able to do so. And those stories have two values- one: they increase awareness of the issue right here in the U.S., and second, there is monetary value. Merck for Mothers is going to donate to organizations that create a world for safer pregnancies for all women everywhere. So please go and join the ‘Once Upon A Birth’ campaign.”


Candace Rose: And Emily, Merck for Mothers recently conducted a survey about the birth experience and maternal health. Can you talk to us about the major findings?

Emily McKhann: “Candace, Merck found in their survey that almost half of Americans don’t know that maternal mortality is a problem. They don’t know that 1,000 women are dying in pregnancy and childbirth every year in the U.S., which is why we’re here today to talk about the ‘Once Upon A Birth’ campaign because really quite frankly, if we talk about what’s going on in our lives- for me, I’m a mother and I’m a blogger, and I’ve been reading birth stories online for years. It’s really raised my own awareness, my own understanding of what’s happening. It’s helped me connect the dots, and so what we’re doing today is to talk about it, and invite people to go to, share your birth story. So everybody out there please share your birth stories, don’t hesitate, go right now, don’t overthink it. And when you do so, for every story Merck’s going to make a donation, and it’s really going to do wonders. It’s going to make such a big difference.”


Candace Rose: Do either of you have any additional information you’d like to share with viewers?

Dr. Priya Agrawal: “The most important message is that maternal mortality is completely preventable, and we all have a role to play in this. So, your viewers should go to and increase awareness. Concurrently we will be making donations, but also Merck for Mothers is working with professionals to say ‘Okay, when a woman actually does seek care, and she accesses care, then it’s our responsibility to make sure that then the professionals provide the right quality of care to the right woman at the right time’. So remember it’s preventable, you need to share your stories with the communities and let us work with the professionals to make sure women are getting the right quality of care, and that pregnancy and childbirth can be a time of joy and happiness rather than fear.”

Emily McKhann: “And Candace, we would love to invite people to go to, but as you know on the internet, we all have so many platforms online, so invite people to help us get the word out, use all the other platforms that we’re all on, whether it’s Twitter or Instagram or Pinterest or email. Just help us get the word out, because it really matters, and 1,000 women dying in the U.S. every year is just far too many.”

Dr. Priya Agrawal: “Remember healthy women equal healthy families, healthy communities and healthy nations. So this is beyond just the mother and child, we’re talking about our country here.




  1. December 6, 2012 / 5:55 am

    Thanks, Candi, for posting about our interview together! We loved talking with you and so appreciate your interest in and commitment to the topic of maternal health in the US and around the globe!!!!!

  2. December 6, 2012 / 3:15 pm

    Hi Emily, Thank you for the wonderful interview! I loved talking with you and Dr. Agrawal about this important issue, and I thank you for working to make a difference in the lives of women and families across the world!

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