WILMINGTON, Delaware (WPVI) -- The United States has the highest death rate for pregnant women and new mothers of any industrial nation and a Delaware health system helped prove a way to bring it down.
Four years ago, Victoria Dennis of New Castle lost a baby when slightly elevated blood pressure early in her pregnancy snowballed to preeclampsia.
At eight months pregnant, she went to the hospital thinking she was in early labor.
"I get there, there's no heartbeat. And the doctor said, I am so sorry. I couldn't save his life, but I'm gonna try to save yours," Victoria recalled.
In fact, she had suffered an abruption of the placenta - it had pulled away from the uterine wall and she was hemorrhaging. Victoria needed a transfusion to save her life.
Dr. Matthew Hoffman, the Chief of Obstetrics at ChristianaCare, says about 5% of pregnant women already have high blood pressure. About a third of them will deliver early or develop pre-eclampsia.
Doctors have been divided about giving blood pressure drugs early in pregnancy.
"There was a competing camp that says if we lowered blood pressure, we would lower blood volume to the baby and cause the baby to be undergrown," says Dr. Hoffman.
Now, a nationwide study from 60 sites, including ChristianaCare, showed that treating a mother-to-be's mild high blood pressure is not only safe all around, it saves lives.
Dr Hoffman says pre-term births and preeclampsia are down at ChristianaCare.
"Both of those numbers are down about 20% to 25% with aggressive treatment," he said.
Victoria is pregnant again, but this time is different. She is on blood pressure medication and gets frequent checks.
"And my blood pressure was 125 over 70. Perfectly fine," she said.
Dr. Hoffman says with new moms older and heavier, more women now fall into the high risk category.