Eclampsia Highlighted in PBS Drama "Downton Abbey"

Spoiler alert: This blog discusses plot twists from the latest Downton Abbey episode.

This week’s episode of Downton Abbey, the popular Edwardian period drama that airs on PBS, had a significant plot twist that deviated from the usual quibbling over what to wear for dinner, romantic escapades, and impending changes to the decorum at Downton. Instead, the show tackled the very difficult topic of maternal death.

Along with postpartum hemorrhage, sepsis, and unsafe abortion, preeclampsia is among the leading causes of maternal death in the world.First, for those of you who may be unfamiliar the show, here’s a quick recap of this week’s episode: Lord Robert Grantham’s youngest daughter, Lady Sybil Branson, is about to give birth and her father has called in respected physician Sir Phillip Tapsell. While Sir Phillip has a pedigree that his Lordship appreciates, Lady Grantham strongly advocates for Dr. Clarkson, the country doctor who has been the family’s physician for years to also attend the birth.

Watching the debate between the physicians over the best course of treatment as Sybil began to show signs of “muddled” thinking and swollen ankles, I began to have a sinking feeling that something would go wrong—either for the mother or the baby. Dr. Clarkson expressed his concern that Sybil may suffer from preeclampsia, which is often characterized by high blood pressure and may result in swelling of the feet and hands. Recognizing that Sybil was exhibiting these symptoms, Dr. Clarkson recommends that Sybil be transported to the local hospital to have a Caesarean section. Clarkson’s recommendation is rebuffed by Sir Phillip, who assures Lord Grantham that his daughter will be fine and can safely deliver at home.

Later in the episode, the family welcomes the newest edition of the Grantham family, a baby girl. After the mounting concern by Dr. Clarkson and Lady Grantham over Sybil’s health, audiences surely breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of the healthy baby. However, moments later the plot shifted and Lady Sybil went into convulsions and was unable to breathe, her mother and husband pleading for the doctors to intervene. Millions of viewers were left as helpless as the doctors and family watching her death.

Moments later, my Facebook feed was filled with comments about the scene, a few sharing similar scares with preeclampsia—a jolting reminder of how we so often see the public posts of happy families, but so rarely hear about the difficulties that may have occurred during pregnancy or delivery.

Soon after “Downton Abbey” was trending on Twitter, and in the following days, various media outlets addressed the linkages between Lady Sybil’s death and ongoing need for women and their doctors to recognize the danger signs of preeclampsia and related disorders. Along with postpartum hemorrhage, sepsis, and unsafe abortion, preeclampsia is among the leading causes of maternal death in the world.

Woman in labor, India

Whether the plot twist intentionally aimed to raise awareness of the issue of preeclampsia/eclampsia, and more broadly of maternal death, or was only an attempt to generate additional buzz for the popular show, I immediately thought of the parallels with Pathfinder’s work in several countries where maternal deaths remain unacceptably high. While the show clearly elevated the profile of preeclampsia as a risk factor for many women, subtler themes that Pathfinder encounters in our work were also present, including complications that arise during home delivery, lack of prenatal care to recognize symptoms, lack of transportation options when emergencies arise, and lack of the mother’s decision-making power as parents, spouses, and others intervene in the delivery process.

For example, in Nigeria, where Pathfinder has to address maternal health since 2007, delivery in a health facility with a skilled attendant is particularly low at just 10 percent.  Similar to Lady Sybil’s experience, when complications occur, Nigerian women often do not make it to hospitals as complications are not recognized as problems or transportation is not available or the distance to travel is too far. Unlike Lady Sybil, women in Nigeria often face the added burden of being unable to pay for transportation or the highest quality of care.

To address the three main causes of maternal deaths—postpartum hemorrhage, sepsis, and high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia/eclampsia)—Pathfinder developed an innovative holistic program model that integrates clinical interventions with efforts to address cultural, economic, and infrastructural barriers that prevent women from seeking and accessing quality maternal health care. The model has been implemented in India, Nigeria, Tanzania, Peru, and Bangladesh. Pathfinder informs women and their communities about birth preparedness and possible risks and trains providers in high-quality antenatal services, ensuring timely detection and management or referral of those at high-risk of obstetric complications.

As we tune in to see how the residents of Downton Abbey carry on after this devastating loss, let’s not forget about the heartbreak, absence, and guilt felt by families who have suffered this loss in real life.Last year in India, Pathfinder worked with frontline community health workers to reach women and their families with information about potential childbirth complications, distributing more than 4,000 birth preparedness calendars that identify the nearest providers and allow mothers to create an action plan in case of emergencies. In addition, Pathfinder successfully facilitated preeclampsia/eclampsia training for more than 250 service providers, increasing their ability to recognize danger signs and provide appropriate treatment.

While Lady Sybil may have had every advantage in the world due to her wealth and status, she suffered from the same complications and the lack of care that many women continue to face throughout the world. As we tune in to see how the residents of Downton Abbey carry on after this devastating loss, let’s not forget about the heartbreak, absence, and guilt felt by families who have suffered this loss in real life.

Want to do more? You can help us prevent the deaths of women around the world. Ask John Kerry to make maternal mortality a US foreign policy priority during his time as Secretary of State.

Leave a Comment

* Change

Comments

Hi there, I found your blog via Google while searching for such kinda informative post and your post looks very interesting for me. Mathew Sandoval
jackson October 21, 2014
Once I thought about things like: why such information is for free here? Because when you write a book then at least on selling a book you get a percentage. Thank you and good luck on informing people more about it! freze yedek parça
stuart October 15, 2014
Thank you, I’ve recently been looking for information approximately this subject for a long time and yours is the greatest I’ve came upon till now.3CouponCode.com
3CouponCode.com October 14, 2014
Hmm… I read blogs on a similar topic, but i never visited your blog. I added it to favorites and i’ll be your constant reader. Tanning pills
jackson October 12, 2014
Easily, the item is indeed the cream text on this registry germane copy. I healthy in along your finishs moreover inclination eagerly semblance forth to your ensuing refurbishs. Suitable maxim acknowledges inclination hardly unbiased be adequate, for the fantasti c lucidity in your composition. I endow instantaneously capture your rss sustain to abide acquainted of some refurbishs. homepage links
jackson October 9, 2014
parties information long-term free credit reports from all 3 bureaus despair overcome
Name October 9, 2014
Fair decorous advise. I ethical stumbled against your blog plus liked to pronounce that I receive truly loved lesson your blog notifys. Some course I’ll be subscribing to your fatten moreover I expect you inform more shortly. freedebtconsolidationquotes.com
jackson October 2, 2014
cioxwx http://txdiam.com/ xmlveoue [url=http://izsccw.com/]xmlveoue[/url]
hello October 2, 2014
it's really nice and meanful. it's really cool blog. Linking is very useful thing.you have really helped lots of people who visit blog and provide them usefull information. Get Traffic
jackson September 30, 2014
Memories of my travels with Pathfinder International flooded back. I’ve seen things that I will never forget.192.168.1.254
adminor September 30, 2014
We came to the conclusion which exact suitable matter that will undertake was to be able to commence expression the particular unnecessary requirements this You own those They may not working with. We acquire a new Nx Coin Codes since i'm talking about typically the solely technique They could get hold of KARMA. karma koin regarding work with for typically the premiere on the web matches, such as the actual a lot been pertaining to Walnut Tale. Nexon Conceive pc cards get evolved Karma Sports activity Pc cards. People could likewise earn Enthusiast Cash around a person associated with his a number of battles as well as situations. all of us being a new very good site along with guidance staff members to help aid an individual bring in top details towards expend with Nexon Conceive. A person may at the same time pay for nice further with regard to mine on the web heroes. how to generate free Karma koins network codes
http://getfreekarmakoincodesnow.com September 26, 2014
Scroll to top