The United States (U.S.) is the only high-income country where maternal mortality is on the rise. A woman living in the U.S. today is more likely to die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth than her own mother was in 1990 — and more than 60% of maternal deaths in the U.S. are preventable.
Racial inequities in maternal health outcomes persist in the U.S. — Black and Native American women are two to three times more likely to die from a pregnancy or childbirth-related complication than white women. These unacceptable, unequal outcomes persist across varying levels of education and income. Systemic racism is a risk factor for poor maternal health outcomes.
for Mothers is taking a comprehensive approach to tackling the maternal health crisis in the U.S. by addressing both clinical and community factors that contribute to poor maternal health. We work with a diverse group of collaborators, including health care providers, community-based organizations, quality improvement leaders, maternal health advocates, researchers, state and national public health leaders and others with the goal of ending preventable maternal mortality in the U.S.
In August 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched Hear Her, a national communication campaign that brings attention to maternal mortality and provides support to pregnant and postpartum women to speak up when something does not feel right. The Hear Her campaign illustrates how recognizing critical maternal health warning signs and speaking up can save lives, through personal stories from women who experienced severe pregnancy-related complications. Hear Her also encourages the people supporting pregnant and postpartum women — family, friends and health care providers — to take action when concerns are expressed. The multi-phased campaign was supported through a collaboration with the CDC Foundation and funding from through for Mothers.
Through the campaign, nearly 400 million people visited the Hear Her website and had access to resources that centered the experiences of those most impacted and helped people who are pregnant have a better opportunity to access high-quality maternal health care. The campaign also worked with a number of state health departments in Tennessee, New York, Connecticut, Utah, Texas and Arizona to localize and disseminate campaign materials in their respective states.
The ability of birthing people in underserved communities to access safe, respectful and high-quality maternity care and support was disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. for Mothers awarded a grant to Every Mother Counts to engage community-based organizations led by midwives and doulas to address this challenge. The grant created a COVID-19 Response Fund which provided women with continuous virtual emotional and practical support and facilitated linkages to health care that helped meet critical maternal health needs during the pandemic. Every Mother Counts focused efforts on addressing longstanding problems that were exacerbated by the pandemic, with solutions that will continue to be relevant and generate lasting impact.
Through the fund, seven programs were strengthened by training 800+ health care providers and birth workers to be better able to provide quality care and/or support services. The fund also helped provide much-needed support services to 1,000+ pregnant and birthing people to improve quality of care including doula support, childbirth education and lactation support to.
The Better Maternal Outcomes Rapid Improvement Network was an initiative led by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), funded by a grant from for Mothers, aimed at connecting hospitals and providers in the United States who pledge to improve maternal health outcomes by delivering safe, equitable, respectful care for all, and reducing stark inequities in care. Participating organizations from across the U.S. worked to spread best practices and protocols through a variety of shared learning formats and practical, how-to guidance. The goal of the network was to equip participants with the knowledge and skills needed to reliably implement promising practices and improve care delivery for all women and newborns. As part of the Better Maternal Outcomes project, IHI aimed to improve Black maternal health through community collaboration. They facilitated locally-driven, co-designed, rapid improvements in four US cities — Atlanta, Detroit, New Orleans, and Washington, DC — focused on the intersection of health care delivery, the experience of Black birthing people, and community support systems. A central guiding principle that contributed to the success of all four communities, was the importance of centering and co-designing with Black people who birth to advance health equity and improve maternal health outcomes.
As of December 2021, 2,800+ clinicians have participated in the Rapid Improvement Network, representing 1,500+ hospitals that received education and programming focused on critical safety issues including severe hypertension and preeclampsia, venous thromboembolism, obstetric hemorrhage, safe reduction of C-sections and a host of emerging topics.
Although awareness of maternal deaths has increased in recent years, patient voices remain under-represented in policy and quality improvement discussions. We supported the creation of MoMMA’s (Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Advocates) Voices, the first-ever maternal health patient advocacy coalition, which brings together the voices of people who have experienced childbirth complications and family members who have lost a loved one to strengthen collective efforts to educate policy makers and advocate for quality improvements in clinical practice.
The Safer Childbirth Cities initiative is our effort to reduce the racial inequities we see in maternal health outcomes and address both the health and social factors that affect a healthy pregnancy and safe childbirth. The initiative is designed to foster local solutions that help cities become safer — and more equitable — places to give birth. In collaboration with co-funders, we currently support 20 city-based coalitions across the country to implement strategies tailored to the needs of pregnant people in their city. The first group of Safer Childbirth Cities is exploring diverse approaches that bridge the community-clinic divide, including integrated models of care, doula support, surveillance systems and implicit bias training for maternity care providers.
For a full list of Safer Childbirth Cities collaborators and grantees, visit SaferChildbirthCities.com
for Mothers is supporting the March of Dimes to ensure that women remain connected to their health care providers and have continued access to critical health related information by supporting a series of webinars and creating a resource hub addressing maternal health and COVID-19. The project will also develop and pilot a curriculum for virtual postpartum care — a need beyond COVID-19 — to help women maintain connections with the health care system and with each other after giving birth, and to advance equitable access to new health care delivery technologies.