Working Together to Reduce Black Maternal Mortality

Black Maternal Health Week is recognized each year from April 11-17 to bring attention and action in improving Black maternal health. Take these steps to reduce risks of pregnancy-related complications and deaths.

Most Pregnancy-Related Deaths are Preventable

pregnant African-american woman

Black Maternal Health Week is recognized each year from April 11-17 to bring awareness to Black maternal health.

Each year in the United States, about 700 people die during pregnancy or in the year after. Another 50,000 women each year experience severe pregnancy complications that can cause serious consequences for a woman’s health. Every pregnancy-related death is tragic, especially because two in three of them are preventable. Recognizing the 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 have historically prevented 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:

Hear - know the maternal warning signs - learn more -
  • Talk to a healthcare provider if anything doesn’t feel right or is concerning.
  • Know and seek immediate care if experiencing an 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:

medical professional attending to pregnant woman

Hospitals and healthcare systems can:

States and communities can:

CDC Activities to Prevent Maternal Mortality

To prevent pregnancy-related deaths, CDC:

  • Supports 25 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.
  • Funds 13 state perinatal quality collaboratives (PQCs) to improve the quality of care for mothers and their babies. Funding 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

Non-Hispanic Black women are overrepresented in the number of deaths reported among women with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection regardless of pregnancy status, and Non-Hispanic Black pregnant women are at increased risk for developing severe COVID-19 illness compared with non-Hispanic White women. Learn more about COVID-19 and pregnant people and how to reduce risks and stay healthy.

Page last reviewed: April 9, 2021