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Every two minutes, a woman dies giving life – not only in developing countries, but everywhere, including the United States.

In the United States, three of the leading causes of these deaths are
Preeclampsia, Embolism (pulmonary) and Post-partum hemorrhage.

That's why Merck for Mothers is encouraging expecting families to have a
PEP Talk — a conversation with a healthcare professional about these potential pregnancy complications.


Tell someone you love to have a PEP Talk with a healthcare professional.
A simple conversation could help to provide life-saving information.

What is PEP?

What is it?
Pregnancy-induced high blood pressure and presence of protein in the urine during pregnancy, childbirth or after delivery

How common is it?
Approximately 200,000 - 750,000 women are affected each year, or 5 - 8 of every 100 pregnancies in the U.S. 75

When does it occur?
Typically in the late second or third trimesters of pregnancy, but can occur anytime during pregnancy or six weeks after

What are the symptoms?
There are many symptoms of preeclampsia, but some of the most common ones are:

  • Severe headache
  • Changes in vision or problems with vision
  • Pain in upper abdomen or under ribs
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Swelling in the face or hands
  • Sudden weight gain

What is it?
A sudden blockage of an artery in the lung, usually caused by a blood clot that travels to the lung from a vein in the leg

How common is the risk?
A woman's risk of a blood clot (in the leg or lung) is about four times higher than normal during pregnancy

When does it occur?
There is a similar risk for blood clots during all three trimesters of pregnancy, and an increased risk after delivery and c-sections

What are the symptoms of pulmonary embolism?
Symptoms include:

  • Sudden shortness of breath
  • Sharp chest pain that is worse when you cough or take a deep breath
  • A cough that brings up bloody sputum/mucus

What is it?
Severe bleeding during or after giving birth

How common is it?
Affects nearly 100,000 women per year, or three out of every 100 deliveries in the U.S., and is the leading cause of maternal mortality worldwide

When does it occur?
Post-partum hemorrhaging most often occurs in the 24 hours after delivery, but a small percentage of women experience it more than 24 hours or up to six weeks after childbirth

What are the symptoms?

  • Heavy vaginal bleeding
  • Feeling faint
  • Increased heart rate
  • Swelling and pain in the vaginal area

It can happen to anyone: watch Jennifer's story.

Jennifer's story

PEP Talk: A Message from our Chief Medical Officer

PEP Talk: A Message from our Chief Medical Officer

Key Questions to Ask During a PEP Talk

It's important to talk to your healthcare professional about pregnancy complications, risk factors and warning signs. Some key questions include:

  • What are the leading complications that can be experienced during pregnancy that I should be aware of?
  • What are the risk factors associated with these complications?
  • Is there anything I can do to reduce my risk?
  • What are the warning signs that I or my family should look out for?

Who should you tell about having a PEP Talk?

Anyone pregnant or considering becoming pregnant and their family members. A woman's entire support network should be informed and be her advocate.

Just a few words could help make a difference.

"I recently learned that pregnant women can be at risk for some serious complications. Next time you're at the doctor, be sure to ask about this."

PEP Talk Tools & Resources

PEP Talk Infographic

Summary of the leading pregnancy complications in the U.S.
Click to view



Symptoms associated with preeclampsia, embolism (pulmonary) and post-partum hemorrhage.
Click to view



Some key questions for expecting families to ask their healthcare professional(s) during their next visit.
Click to view



Tips for when, where and how to tell your pregnant loved ones and their family members to have a PEP Talk.
Click to view


Did You Know?


The approximate number of women who nearly die during pregnancy or childbirth every year in the U.S.


The U.S.'s global rank based on maternal mortality rate - behind nearly every other developed nation.


Merck for Mothers  is a 10-year, $500 million initiative focused
on creating a world
where no woman dies
giving life.


We are working to improve maternal health in more than 30 countries around the world.