The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a new report on the state of maternal health in the United States, which found that 84 percent of maternal deaths were preventable. The report included data from 36 states over two years from 2017 through 2019.
The leading causes of preventable maternal deaths were cardiac problems and mental health conditions. White and Hispanic women were most likely to die from suicide or drug overdose, while Black women were more likely to die from cardiac issues. Fifty-three percent of maternal deaths occurred after new mothers had already returned home from the hospital, up to a year after delivery.
The CDC has made several recommendations in response to their report, pointing out that the data reveals a lack of postpartum support for new mothers, including mental health and addiction resources. Their recommendations include moving up the traditional six-week postnatal check-up to within one or two weeks after delivery.
The CDC also recommends increasing screening for postpartum depression through the first year after delivery, as well as increasing coordination between medical and social services. They also emphasized the importance of expanded healthcare coverage in order to continue providing adequate postpartum care to new parents.
The March of Dimes recently released data showing that preterm birth rates have been getting worse in the past year, and that racial disparities in preterm birth outcomes were widening as well. However, infant mortality rates have improved thanks to supports like the expansion of Medicaid to cover postpartum care from 60 days to one year after birth in 11 more states (bringing the total of states providing such coverage to over two dozen). Other recommendations they make to improve outcomes for birthing parents and babies include more states increasing access to Medicaid and extending the postpartum coverage period, enacting policies to reimburse midwifery care and doula services, and improving paid family leave.