Posted by on April 13, 2018 - 3:09pm

By Alexa Karczmar

Maternal health in the U.S. has been on the decline for the past forty years. The Department of Health and Human Services has reported that maternal mortality has been on the rise for the last three years, and in the 2014 Trends in Maternal Mortality report, the American maternal mortality rate (MMR) had more than doubled in the preceding 13 years [1].The same report demonstrated that the MMR of the U.S. had the highest level of annual increase in maternal death in all of the countries they had studied.

This crisis disproportionately affects Black women, who are more than four times more likely to die in childbirth than White women [2]. Black women face higher rates of poverty than White women and are less likely to be insured [3]. They have higher rates of chronic health conditions that are considered risk factors in maternal death, including heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes [4]. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has cited chronic health conditions as a major risk factor for maternal mortality and suspect in its rates of increase, and the impact of these diseases on Black women are likely exacerbated by their underrepresentation in clinical trials.

Per the Black Mamas Matter Toolkit, Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW) is a week intended to:

  • Increase attention to the state of Black maternal health in the US;
  • Amplify the voices of Black mamas, women, families, and stakeholders;
  • Serve as a national platform for Black-women led entities and efforts on maternal; health, birth justice, and reproductive justice; and
  • Enhance community organizing on Black maternal health.

This month, our blog posts and newsletters will further highlight maternal health, sex-inclusive research, and potential solutions in healthcare policy and practice.

You can learn more about BMHW and the Black Mamas Matter Alliance by following them on Twitter @BlkMamasMatter and visiting their website at


1.         Unicef, Trends in maternal mortality: 1990 to 2013. 2014.

2.         Creanga, A.A., et al., Maternal mortality and morbidity in the United States: where are we now? Journal of Women's Health, 2014. 23(1): p. 3-9.

3.         Stephens, J., S. Artiga, and J. Paradise, Health coverage and care in the south in 2014 and beyond. 2014: Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

4.         Robbins, C., et al., Disparities in Preconception Health Indicators - Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2013-2015, and Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System, 2013-2014. MMWR Surveill Summ, 2018. 67(1): p. 1-16.


Posted by on July 6, 2011 - 8:23am

Improving maternal health has been a primary goal of the international community led by three United Nations Agencies (UN Populations Fund (UNFPA), the World Bank and the World Health Organization) since they launched the Safe Motherhood Initiative in 1987.  Over the years their goals have been reviewed and updated, and in 2007, in recognition to the close links between maternal health and other reproductive conditions, a second target--ensuring universal access to reproductive health services was added to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

According to UNFPA, about 200 million women and girls globally who want to use contraceptives do not have access to them. In a survey conducted in Uganda, 41% of the women who responded wished to space their pregnancies further apart--a key health factor for both mothers and children--but lacked access to contraception and family planning services. The Ugandan government has failed to respond with resources to address this need despite the fact that their country has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.   In other countries like Zambia and Ethiopia, empty dispensaries are all too common.

Lack of access to birth control leads to abortions and according to the World Health Organization, an estimate 20 million unsafe abortions take place each year.  Worldwide, at least 68,000 women annually die from such procedures, and another estimated 5 million women per year suffer long-term injury.(Grimes DA et al. Lancet Reprod Health Ser. 2006).

Considering what we spend on defense and bailing out unscrupulous banks, the cost of contraception is pennies, yet the lives it could save are immense.