Health & Medicine

Discussion: Why are more US mothers dying and what can be done?

A smaller metal gurney is shown next to a larger one in the hallway of a maternity ward at the University of Alabama Hospital.

Gurneys are pictured at the children's and women's maternity ward at the University of Alabama Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama.

Credit:

Marvin Gentry/Reuters

Maternal mortality dropped by almost half over the last 25 years around the world. However, in startling contrast, deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth doubled in the United States between 2000 and 2014.

The startling change puts the US second-to-last in maternal mortality among countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Additionally, racial disparities mean that black women in the US face a deeply distressing three- to four-times higher risk of pregnancy-related deaths.

Related: Chart: The alarming rise in maternal mortality in the US

What factors are driving these increases and disparities? What changes will narrow the survival gap between white and black women? How can health care systems more effectively prevent complications and poor outcomes? And, how can mothers themselves and their communities be agents for change for a more equitable and safe delivery of the next generation?

In partnership with Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health and WGBH News, these were just some of the questions covered during a live event as part of The Forum Leadership Studio Series.

Tina Martin, moderator
Anchor, host and reporter, WGBH

Panelists include:

Wanda Barfield
Rear Admiral, US Public Health Service, and director of the Division of Reproductive Health for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Haywood Brown
Immediate past president, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Ana Langer
Professor of the practice of public health and director of the Women and Health Initiative, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Susan Mann
MD, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Karen Scott
Project director, California Birth Equity Collaborative, California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative

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