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. Everyone can play a role in working to prevent pregnancy-related deaths and improving maternal health outcomes.

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 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:

  • Hear her-Seek help if something doesn’t feel right

    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:

  • Hear her-Listening can be your most important tool. Her hear concerns. It could help save her life

    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:

States and communities can:

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.

Page last reviewed: April 6, 2022