Maternal and Child Health

People of color are more likely to experience risk factors for complications in pregnancy, maternal morbidity, infant mortality, and preterm births, which are associated with less access to prenatal care and exposure to toxins.

Severe maternal morbidity (SMM) occurs when unexpected outcomes of labor and delivery have significant short- or long-term consequences to a woman’s health.2 Maternal mortality rates and SMM have significantly increased over the last two decades in the United States3,4 and trends in MA indicate similar increases.5 However, SMM is 50 to 100 times more common than maternal death and racial/ethnic disparities in SMM exist. Nationally, Black pregnant and postpartum people have the highest proportion of SMM, and 70% greater risk of SMM.6 The consequences of increasing SMM prevalence, in addition to health effects to postpartum people, include higher medical costs and longer hospital stays5 Recognizing and tracking SMM by race/ethnicity along with developing and carrying out interventions to improve the quality of maternal care, are essential to addressing racial/ethnic inequities in SMM.

Additional Information and Footnotes

Hispanic is used to reflect current data collection practices. We acknowledge this may not be the preferred term. Throughout this report, NH refers to Non-Hispanic. People of color refers to individuals identifying as Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Hispanic, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Other. Unless otherwise noted, adults are ages 18+. Data are most recently available for the specified data source.

1 Gross, T. (2017). A 'Forgotten History' Of How the U.S. Government Segregated America. National Public Radio; Fresh Air. Retrieved from

2 Hegewisch, A., Liepmann, H., Hayes, J., & Hartmann, H. (2010). Separate and Not Equal? Gender Segregation in the Labor Market and the Gender Wage Gap. Institute for Women's Policy Research. DOI: DOI:10.1037/e686432011-001

3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Severe maternal morbidity in the United States. Retrieved from

4 Callaghan, W.M., MacKay, A.P., & Berg, C.J. (2008). Identification of severe maternal morbidity during delivery hospitalizations, United States, 1991-2003. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 199(2), 133-e1. DOI: 10.1016/j.ajog.2007.12.020

5 Callaghan, W.M., Creanga, A.A., & Kuklina, E.V. (2012). Severe maternal morbidity among delivery and postpartum hospitalizations in the United States. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 120(5), 1029-1036. DOI: 10.1097/aog.0b013e31826d60c5

6 Harvey, E.M., Ahmed, S., Manning, S.E., Diop, H., Argani, C., Strobino, D.M. (2018). Severe maternal morbidity at delivery and risk of hospital encounters within 6 weeks and 1 year postpartum. Journal of Women's Health, 27(2): 140-7. DOI: 10.1089/jwh.2017.6437

7 Liese, K.L., Mogos, M., Abboud, S., Decocker, K., Koch, A.R., & Geller, S.E. (2019). Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Severe Maternal Morbidity in the United States. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, 6(4), 790-798. DOI: 10.1007/s40615-019-00577-w

8 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (1995). U.S. Housing Market Conditions Summary. Retrieved from

Additional Resources

Contact   for Maternal and Child Health


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