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Maternal Health

Maternal mortality and severe illness are critical issues in the United States. There are racial, ethnic, and geographic differences in death rates. Severe maternal illness is far more common than death.

More than 700 women die each year in the US from pregnancy-related causesi. Especially concerning is that:

  • Non-Hispanic Black women and American Indian/Alaska Native women are two to three times as likely to die of pregnancy-related causes as compared to their white, Asian Pacific Islander, and Hispanic counterparts.ii
  • Four of every five pregnancy-related deaths are preventable.iii
  • Thousands of women iv experience unintended outcomes of labor and delivery that result in significant short- or long-term health consequences.v

Our approach to maternal health

Our investments provide for the health of women as they move through the stages of motherhood. This includes before they become pregnant, during pregnancy, after the birth, and beyond.

Programs such as the Title V Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Block Grant, the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, and our Women’s Preventive Services Initiative (WPSI) are examples of our work to make sure that women have access to the services and care they need across the life course.

We also support systems of services aimed to prevent severe illness and promote physical and mental health. A major focus of our work is to eliminate the major difference in pregnancy-related deaths between racial groups. Our complementary programs promote better health outcomes by:

Improving access to quality services

  • Strengthening data capacity and using proven methods to shape high quality programs
  • Connecting people to the right services at the right time
  • Coordinating comprehensive services and using technology to create access
  • Supporting parents as they seek to be healthy and provide good care
  • Making sure that women can access preventive health care—such as prenatal and postpartum care—without paying out of pocket

Advancing equity

  • Eliminating racial and geographic health disparities by addressing systemic and social inequities, such as:
    • Measuring disparities and advancing equity by collecting data on different demographic factors like race, income, and health status
    • Targeting investments to places where maternal mortality rates are worse than the national average
    • Providing patient-centered, culturally- and linguistically-appropriate, community-based services

Strengthening the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) workforce

  • Training health care workers to identify and treat early warning signs of obstetric emergencies
  • Encouraging health professionals to work with women to identify & lower risks and to promote healthy lifestyles
  • Training the MCH workforce to integrate culturally and linguistically appropriate, equitable, and trauma-informed best practices. This includes routine screening for behavioral health conditions and intimate partner violence

Creating impact through leadership, partnership, and stewardship

  • Establishing state-focused maternal health task forces to help identify needs and activities to address them
  • Creating a resource center to provide national guidance to improve maternal health
  • Developing and sustaining partnerships with national maternal health organizations and stakeholders

Our investments

Work that specifically addresses maternal health:

Work that contains elements targeting maternal health:

Gathering data and tracking progress

We gather program data and national data to track progress. We evaluate the impact of our investments. We gather data through:

Contact us

Well-Women Care at HRSA

i Pregnancy-Related Deaths in the United States

ii Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System

iii Maternal Mortality Review Information APP Pregnancy-Related Deaths: Data from Maternal Mortality Review Committees in 36 US States, 2017-2019 (PDF - 457 KB).

iv The Title V Information System Federally Available Data Resource Document

v Severe Maternal Morbidity in the United States

Date Last Reviewed: