January 30, 2023

Health Topic: Maternal Mortality in the U.S.

The United States has an alarmingly high maternal mortality rate in comparison to other wealthy nations. There are many factors contributing to the increasing rate of maternal deaths associated with pregnancy in our country, but vulnerable and underserved populations such as racial and ethnic minorities, homeless individuals, and those living in rural communities experience higher rates of maternal morbidity.

In an effort to reduce maternal mortalities, organizations such as the CDC developed programs to educate people on factors contributing to maternal morbidity and encourage preventative measures to protect the health of pregnant individuals. The CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health established the Hear Her campaign to increase awareness of the warning signs for pregnant and postpartum mothers. This project is meant to not only alert mothers to signs and symptoms indicating the need for urgent care, but to help the birthing individual’s support system (family, friends, and partners) in detecting warning signs as well.


Severe Maternal Morbidity and Maternal Mortality in Women with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 2021.

Rural-Urban Differences in Severe Maternal Morbidity and Mortality in the US, 2007–15. Health Affairs, 2019 (choose the Natural Sciences Collection link for direct access to full text).

Maternal Health in the Transgender Population. Journal of Women’s Health, 2021 (click on publisher’s link for full text).

Maternal Age and Severe Maternal Morbidity: A Population-based Retrospective Cohort Study. PLoS Medicine, 2017.

Why Childbirth is So Dangerous for Many Young Teens. Shots Health News from NPR, 2022.

Mental Health Conditions Increase Severe Maternal Morbidity By 50 Percent and Cost $102 Million Yearly in The United States. Health Affairs, 2021 (choose the Natural Sciences Collection link for direct access to full text). Perinatal mental health disorders are increasingly acknowledged as contributors to adverse maternal outcomes.

Maternal Mortality and Severe Morbidity in a Migration Perspective. Best Practice & Research. Clinical Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 2015. Among migrants in high-income countries, maternal mortality and severe morbidity generally occur more frequently as compared to host populations.

Social Determinant of Housing Instability and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes. The Journal of Perinatal & Neonatal Nursing, 2022. We conducted a scoping review to examine the literature regarding pregnancy-related morbidities among birthing individuals and infants experiencing housing instability…

Other Resources

Logo for the Black Maternal Health CaucusBlack Maternal Health Caucus. The Black Maternal Health Caucus is organized around the goals of elevating the Black maternal health crisis within Congress and advancing policy solutions to improve maternal health outcomes and end disparities.


Logo for the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal HealthAlliance for Innovation on Maternal Health. A quality improvement initiative to support best practices that make birth safer, improve maternal health outcomes and save lives.


Logo for United Nations WomenIndigenous Women’s Maternal Health and Maternal Mortality. UN Women (United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women) fact sheet, 2018.

Rural Maternal Health Toolkit. The toolkit compiles evidence-based and promising models and resources to support rural communities implementing maternal health programs across the United States.




Image credit: Division of Reproductive Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). Maternal Mortality. Retrieved January 27th, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternal-mortality/index.html