Addressing the U.S. Maternal and Infant Health Crisis
Most of us have seen images of newborn babies swaddled in iconic pink and blue striped cotton blankets, which are ubiquitous in delivery rooms across the country. These blankets are so popular that many families take them home as a keepsake.
Tragically, more than 700 newborns each year will leave the hospital with their blankets, but without their mothers.
Today in the U.S., approximately every 12 hours a woman dies due to pregnancy-related causes, and more than 50,000 others experience dangerous complications that could have killed them – making America one of the most dangerous developed nations for childbirth.
For women of color and their babies, the dangers are far worse. Black women are twice as likely to experience severe pregnancy complications than non-Hispanic white mothers. They are also more than three times as likely to die from pregnancy-related complications as their white peers and up to 50 percent more likely to deliver prematurely. Even worse, the rates of pregnancy-related death for black and Native American women over the age of 30 are four to five times higher than for their white counterparts.
We are facing not one, but two public health crises – as the health of moms and babies is intertwined. In 2018, for the fourth year in a row, more babies in the U.S. were born too soon and every hour, we tragically lose two of them.
We can change the course of this crisis – not only through new treatments and therapies, but with better prevention. Research shows that three in five moms who die of pregnancy-related causes do so as a result of factors that can be prevented within our health system, our communities and hospitals. These include missed or delayed diagnosis of a cardiovascular condition, hemorrhage or infection, poorer quality care received by women of color, and implicit bias and structural racism.
While there’s no single solution to this problem, key opportunities include:
- Urging Congress to pass comprehensive legislation to improve the health of mothers.
- Expanding Medicaid coverage in more states and ensuring all women are covered at least one year postpartum. In too many states, Medicaid coverage ends 60 days after giving birth, even though research shows that one-third of all pregnancy-related deaths occur one week to one year after delivery.
- Expanding group prenatal care programs, which have been shown to reduce premature births, particularly among black women.
- Establishing Maternal Mortality Review Committees nationwide to investigate every instance of maternal death in a state or community and make recommendations to stop future tragedies.
- Increasing support for state-based Perinatal Quality Collaboratives, which have proven successful at enlisting both medical professionals and public health officials in improving the quality of care for moms and babies.
- Addressing chronic inequities and unequal access to quality health care.
March of Dimes also supports efforts to expand access to midwifery care and further integrate midwives into maternity care to improve access to quality care in under-resourced areas. We’re also collaborating with Quality Interactions, a firm that provides cultural competency and implicit bias training for health care professionals to address bias and improve the health of moms of color.
Today and every day, we’re working to ensure that every mom and baby, regardless of their zip code or race, is afforded the opportunity of a healthy pregnancy and start at life. Learn more about the fight for the health of all moms and babies by visiting MarchofDimes.org.
The March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies. They support research, lead programs and provide education and advocacy so that every baby can have the best possible start. Building on a successful 80-year legacy of impact and innovation, the March of Dimes empowers every mom and every family.