Working Together to Reduce Black Maternal Mortality
April 6, 2022
Black Maternal Health Week is recognized each year from April 11-17 to bring attention and action in improving Black maternal health. Everyone can play a role in working to prevent pregnancy-related deaths and improving maternal health outcomes.
Most Pregnancy-Related Deaths are Preventable
Each year in the United States, about 700 people die during pregnancy or in the year after. Another 50,000 people each year have unexpected outcomes of labor and delivery with serious short- or long-term health consequences. Every pregnancy-related death is tragic, especially because two in three of them are preventable. Recognizing urgent maternal warning signs and providing timely treatment and quality care can prevent many pregnancy-related deaths.
Racial Disparities Exist
Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than White women. Multiple factors contribute to these disparities, such as variation in quality healthcare, underlying chronic conditions, structural racism, and implicit bias. Social determinants of health prevent many people from racial and ethnic minority groups from having fair opportunities for economic, physical, and emotional health.
Working Together to Reduce Black Maternal Mortality
During Black Maternal Health Week, learn how you can support pregnant people in your life to reduce factors that contribute to pregnancy-related complications and death.
Pregnant people and their families can:
Talk to a healthcare provider if anything doesn’t feel right or is concerning.
- Know and seek immediate care if experiencing any of the urgent maternal warning signs, including severe headache, extreme swelling of hands or face, trouble breathing, heavy vaginal bleeding or discharge, overwhelming tiredness, and more. These symptoms could indicate a potentially life-threatening complication.
- Document and share pregnancy history during each medical care visit for up to one year after delivery.
- Maintain ongoing healthcare and social support systems before, during, and after pregnancy.
Healthcare providers can:
Ask questions to better understand their patient and things that may be affecting their lives.
- Help patients, and those accompanying them, understand the urgent maternal warning signs and when to seek medical attention right away.
- Help patients manage chronic conditions or conditions that may arise during pregnancy like hypertension, diabetes, or depression.
- Recognize unconscious bias in themselves and in their office.
- Address any concerns patients may have.
- Provide all patients with respectful care.
Hospitals and healthcare systems can:
- Identify and address unconscious bias in healthcare.
- Standardize coordination of care and response to emergencies.
- Improve delivery of quality prenatal and postpartum care.
- Train non-obstetric care providers to ask about pregnancy history in the preceding year.
States and communities can:
- Assess and coordinate delivery hospitals for risk-appropriate care.
- Support review of the causes behind every maternal death.
- Identify and address social factors influencing maternal health such as unstable housing, transportation access, food insecurity, substance use, violence, and racial and economic inequality.
CDC Activities to Prevent Maternal Mortality
To prevent pregnancy-related deaths, CDC:
- Supports states through the Enhancing Reviews and Surveillance to Eliminate Maternal Mortality (ERASE MM) Program. This work facilitates an understanding of the drivers of maternal mortality and complications of pregnancy to better prevent maternal deaths and reduce racial disparities.
- Supports state perinatal quality collaboratives (PQCs) to improve the quality of care for mothers and their babies. This work supports the capabilities of PQCs to improve the quality of perinatal care in their states, including efforts to reduce racial/ethnic and geographic disparities.
- Helps states standardize their assessments of levels of maternal and newborn care for their delivery hospitals by offering the CDC Levels of Care Assessment Tool and providing technical assistance to those who want to use it.
- Promotes the Hear Her campaign to raise awareness of potentially life-threatening warning signs during and after pregnancy and improve communication between patients and their healthcare providers.
COVID-19 and Pregnancy
People who are pregnant or were recently pregnant are more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19 compared to people who are not pregnant. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can help protect pregnant people from getting very sick from COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future. Non-Hispanic Black women have lower COVID-19 vaccination coverage during pregnancy compared to pregnant women from other racial and ethnic groups. This inequity is related to past and other existing inequities in health and its social determinants.
Learn more about COVID-19 and pregnant people and how to reduce risks and stay healthy.
- Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Pregnancy-Related Deaths - United States, 2007-2016
- Vital Signs: Pregnancy-Related Deaths, United States, 2011-2015 and Strategies for Prevention, 13 States, 2013-2017
- Maternal Mortality
- Severe Maternal Morbidity in the United States
- CDC Hear Her Campaign
- COVID-19 and Pregnant People
- COVID-19 Pregnancy Data