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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 causes. Especially concerning is that:

  • Non-Hispanic Black women and American Indian/Alaska Native women are about three times as likely to die of pregnancy-related causes as non-Hispanic White women.i
  • Two of every three of these deaths are preventable.ii
  • Thousands of women iii experience unintended outcomes of labor and delivery that result in significant short- or long-term consequences to their health iv

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 and national data to track progress.

Contact Us

Well-Women Care at HRSA

ii Davis NL, Smoots A.N., Goodman D. Pregnancy-Related Deaths: Data from 14 U.S. Maternal Mortality Review Committees, 2008-2017. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (PDF - 680 KB)

iii (PDF - 12 MB)


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