The United States has the highest maternal mortality ratio (per 100,000 live births)1 of developed countries: United States = 19; Qatar = 9; Japan = 5; Finland = 3; Canada = 10.
In the United States,2 Blacks and American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) are at highest risk for maternal mortality (deaths per 100,000 live births) in the United States: White = 13; Black = 41; AI/AN = 30; Asian/Pacific Islander = 13; Hispanic = 11. In addition, 700 die and 50,000 are at risk for severe disease from problems that occur during and after pregnancy.
National Institutes of Health (NIH) research has identified risk factors, explored disparities, and developed and tested treatments to improve maternal health and care, but more action is needed to make pregnancy and childbirth safer in the United States.
NIH 2020 MMM Research by the Numbers3
- Spending: $224 Million
- Funded Projects: 551
- Institutes and Centers Involved: 21 (plus the Office of the NIH Director)
NIH 2020 MMM Research Findings
Pre-Pregnancy and Pregnancy Loss
- NIH launches the Implementing a Maternal Health & PRregnancy Outcomes Vision for Everyone (IMPROVE) initiative to study all aspects of maternal health, including racial/ethnic disparities in MMM.4,5
- Low-dose aspirin may improve pregnancy and live birth chances for some women, while cannabis and opioid use may reduce pregnancy chances.6,7,8
- Pre-pregnancy cardiovascular health factors in first-time mothers may increase pregnancy complication risks.9
- Gestational Research Assessments for COVID-19 (GRAVID) study10 early findings: Severe COVID-19 disease increases complication risks.
- Maternal and Pediatric pRecision IN Therapeutics (MPRINT) Hub11 expands pharmacology studies in pregnant and lactating women.
- Risk of prenatal and postpartum death is significantly higher for women living in maternity care deserts (counties lacking obstetric care hospitals or midwives).12
Labor and Delivery
- Women in U.S. rural areas are more likely to need blood transfusions during labor and delivery.13
- Single-dose azithromycin during labor may reduce risk of maternal infections and death in low- and middle-income countries.14
- Using MRI and specialized software, researchers can track the electrical signals of contractions across the entire surface of the uterus during labor to detect possible problems.15
- First-ever drug treatment specifically approved for postpartum depression, which research shows may persist for up to 3 years after birth.16,17
- Risk for postpartum stroke is highest in the first 10 days after giving birth.18
- In first-time mothers, pregnancy complications double the risk for high blood pressure and other problems later in life.19