Maternal Health Articles

Disclaimer: The following are original articles related to maternity health and a healthy pregnancy. Some articles are slightly dated, but the information is accurate and educational for those preparing for childbirth.

Booker, Underwood, Adams, Senators Unveil Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act to Address America’s Maternal Health Crisis

PRESS RELEASE | 02/08/2021

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), Representative Lauren Underwood (IL-14) and Representative Alma Adams (NC-12) — along with Members of the Black Maternal Health Caucus — unveiled the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021, historic legislation to save moms’ lives, end racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes, and achieve maternal health justice for Black women and all women and birthing people of color.

New York Times | Erica Chidi and Erica P. Cahill, M.D. | 10/22/2020

Black women in America have more than a three times higher risk of death related to pregnancy and childbirth than their white peers—regardless of factors like higher education and financial means, and for women over 30, the risk is as much as five times higher. This article covers how racism can impact black women’s pre- and postnatal care — and advice for speaking to their Ob-Gyn about it.

The Black Maternal Mortality Crisis Deserves Radical Solutions

Refinery29| Kimberly Seals Allers | 9/23/2020

A national conversation about the United States’ indefensible Black maternal mortality problem is underway. The issue is critical — but it’s also not new. In fact, it seems like every few years, something brings the vital topic back into the public consciousness, even though it’s been a problem for as long as records have been kept.

For Grandparents Day, Women Honor Daughters Lost to Black Maternal Mortality Crisis

The City | Claudia Irizarry Aponte and Ese Olumhense | 9/13/2020

On Thursday, September 10, grandmothers gather to share stories of daughters and grandchildren they’ve lost due to pregnancy-related complications and how they’re working to end health care disparities in a virtual pre-Grandparents Day event to raise awareness about Black maternal mortality titled “#Hear Us.”

How the US medical community fails Black mothers

TEDMED Talk | Wanda Irving | March 2020

Maternal Care Reformer Wanda Irving had her life turned upside down when she lost her only daughter, Shalon Irving, at the hands of “the covert bias of her medical provider.” As Wanda explains, “that very bias, fueled by structural racism, is the root cause of disparities in health care. That very bias impacted Shalon’s outcome, and caused her to be included in the maternal mortality statistics for 2017.”

In this powerful TEDMED Talk, “How the US medical community fails Black mothers”, Wanda reveals the horrific statistics that feed into the systemic disparities which result in Black women dying at rates almost 300% higher than White women. Today, over 3 years later, Wanda is working to promote accountability measures in postpartum care bills and she invites us to use the full range of our resources to eliminate inequity.

The US has the highest maternal death rate of any developed nation. California is trying to do something about that

CNN | Jacqueline Howard | 4/16/2020

The Tatia Oden Memorial Foundation and Executive Director, Maddy Oden, is featured in this article by CNN on maternal mortality in the U.S. and how California has taken steps to improve maternal care, including tracking maternal deaths, improving access to doula/midwife support, implementing programs to address causes of maternal deaths, and addressing racial disparities.

Just last year, California became the first state to require hospitals and birth centers to implement implicit bias trainings for all health workers involved in perinatal care. That move followed many years of cries to save women’s lives.
The Secret to Saving the Lives of Black Mothers and Babies

POLITICO | Lisa Rab | 12/15/19

In the mountains of North Carolina, black women are fighting a national health care crisis by helping each other have healthier pregnancies. Studies show that doulas help reduce the rate of caesarean surgeries, which is higher among black women, and other costly interventions. They can even alleviate some socioeconomic factors that contribute to poor maternal health.

Better Outcomes for Moms, Babies With Healthier WIC Foods

MedPage Today | Vicki Brower | 7/10/19

A study that sought to determine whether the revised Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) food package improved birth and perinatal outcomes among recipients compared with the older WIC package found that updates to the WIC package that incorporated more fruits and vegetables seemed to improve both maternal and infant health outcomes compared with the older program. The study’s researchers also suggest that policies to improve maternal nutrition may be an effective strategy to prevent preeclampsia.

Ultrasound: Weighing the Propaganda Against the Facts

Midwifery Today | Beverley Lawrence Beech

The use of ultrasound in antenatal care is big business. As a result of decades of enthusiastic marketing, women believe they can ensure the well-being of their babies by reporting for an early ultrasound scan and that early detection of a problem is beneficial for these babies. That is not necessarily so, and there are a number of studies which show that early detection can be harmful.

Need for C-Sections Go Up With Oral vs Vaginal Misoprostol

Medpage Today | Zeena Nackerdien | 6/20/2019

Although this study found that using oral misoprostol for labor induction was linked with higher odds of cesarean delivery, previous research has shown no significant difference between side effects and outcomes of oral and vaginal induction with misoprostol. Both oral and vaginal applications of misoprostol, in effect, are linked with increased chances of a C-section. 

Birth doulas are misunderstood. Here’s what we actually do.

The Week | Rebecca Schiller | 3/13/2019

By definition, a doula is someone who provides support to a birthing mother, her partner, and her baby. This support isn’t medical — we don’t give exams or offer medical advice. We are not midwives or doctors. Our work is in caring for the practical and emotional needs of laboring women and their partners. We signpost to information. We advocate. We make nourishing food. We listen. We fill a role that women have filled for each other for millennia. This kind of non-judgmental, experienced support from a layperson can make a profound difference in the transition from individual to parent, and the research backs this up.

Hospitals blame moms when childbirth goes wrong. Secret data suggest it’s not that simple.

USA Today | Alison Young, John Kelly and Christopher Schnaars | 3/9/2019

Women dying during childbirth in the U.S. continues to rise. And this article sheds light on the fact that it is not  being discussed enough in the medical community. Many more women of color die during childbirth, or for pregnancy related reasons, than white women. 

Off-Label Drug Research Generates ‘Medical Uncertainty’

Medscape | Damian McNamara | 12/13/2018

While this article doesn’t focus specifically on a maternal health drug, it sheds light on the common practice of off-label drug usage in maternal care—and the dangers that are associated with it.

“Landmark” Maternal Health Legislation Clears Major Hurdle

ProPublica | Nina Martin | 12/12/2018

On Tuesday, December 11, Congress moved a big step closer toward addressing one of the most fundamental problems underlying the maternal mortality crisis in the United States: the shortage of reliable data about what kills American mothers. The House of Representatives unanimously approved H.R. 1318, the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act, to help states improve how they track and investigate deaths of expectant and new mothers.

Eliminating Racial Disparities in Maternal and Infant Mortality

Center for American Progress | 12/12/2018

Full recording of an event sponsored by the Center for American Progress (CAP) that focused on addressing racial disparities in maternal and infant mortality. Speakers included Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), Jennie Joseph of Commonsense Childbirth, and Breana Lipscomb of Center for Reproductive Rights, Nina Martin of ProPublica, among others.

Supporting the Physical and Mental Health of New and Expectant Black Mothers

The Family Institute at Northwestern University, [email protected] Blog | 11/08/2018

This article examines the highs and lows of pregnancy and how it adds stress to an expecting mother’s life—and for women of color, that stress can be heightened. The article also covers how counseling or psychiatric help can alleviate some of the stress and anxiety surrounding pregnancy, including how counselors can work with women of color to ensure that they receive the necessary mental health support during and after a pregnancy. 

New York Governor Cuomo Should Not Play Politics With Black Maternal Health

Rewire.News | Elizabeth Dawes Gay | 10/17/2018

Shortly after the very first national Black Maternal Health Week, founded and led by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced his intentions to address high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity among Black women in New York state. The comprehensive initiative includes an expansion of Medicaid coverage for doulas, reducing the out-of-pocket costs for what is often life-saving care for low-income families. What remains to be seen is if the governor will follow through on his promises. The state is currently gathering recommendations from appointed task force members, but there are no clear plans to launch a pilot program before 2019.

Pushing in Labor?

Birthworks International | Horatio Daub MD, MPH  and Cathy Daub PT, CCE and CD(BWI) | October 2018

This Birthworks blog post examines a study published in Journal of American Medical Association on October 9, 2018 that found that delaying pushing once full cervical dilatation is reached for 60 minutes vs. immediate pushing had no significant effect on the rate of spontaneous vaginal delivery. This contradicts the previously held beliefs that delayed pushing results in a better chance of having a spontaneous vaginal delivery and is safer for the mother and baby. Authors of the blog caution readers on the limitations of the study, and conclude with a recommendation to allow women to use movement and gravity to assist their births along with other non-pharmacologic measures in order to improve outcomes for women and babies and decrease cesarean rates the most effectively.

Everyone Deserves a Doula

Roots of Labor Birth Collective | 9/17/18

This video by Roots of Labor Birth Collective highlights the importance of doulas in supporting women through labor and childbirth. We encourage you to support this very important collective and concept that is helping low income women of color gain access to a doula, regardless of whether or not they can pay. Show your support by donating to the Collective: 

Maternal mortality: An American crisis

CBS News | Sari Aviv | 8/05/18

This CBS Sunday Morning segment illuminates the implications of labor and delivery in the U.S. and the increase in maternal morbidity and mortality as it relates to access, physician carelessness, increasing rates of C-sections, and racial disparities. Midwife Jennie Joseph explains her concerns about the number of women who are unable to receive proper prenatal care and Charles Johnson offers important advice for expecting mothers.

Giving Birth in Water Appears Safe for Mother and Infant

Reuters Health | Will Boggs, MD | 6/29/18

This article explains that in a hospital setting, giving birth in water, or immersion labor and delivery or waterbirth, appears safe for the mother and the baby. The evidence comes from Dr. Elizabeth R. Cluett from University of Southampton in the UK and her colleagues who evaluated the effects of water immersion during labor and/or birth using information from 15 studies. Hospitals need to increase the amount of large bathtubs to accommodate women seeking waterbirths and reduce negative outcomes and interventions.

U.S. Senate Committee Proposes $50 Million to Prevent Mothers Dying in Childbirth

ProPublica | Nina Martin | 6/28/18

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee voted to request $50 million in new funding for programs that aim to reduce the high rate of women who die in pregnancy or childbirth. $38 million would go to the federal Maternal and Child Health Bureau, increasing access to the Healthy Start program, and $12 million would go to the CDC to enhance data collection and research and support state boards that count and review maternal deaths.

Experts Urge Support of Bills to Combat Maternal Mortality

MedPage Today | Molly Walker | 4/19/18

This article summarizes the Capitol Hill briefing that the Foundation hosted on Thursday, April 19 in an effort to urge lawmakers to pass H.R. 1318 (Preventing Maternal Deaths Act) and of S. 1112 (Maternal Health Accountability Act). The briefing featured Anne Loirette of Timéo et les Autres, Jennie Joseph of Commonsense Childbirth and creator of The JJ Way (via a pre-recorded video), Dr. Michael Lu of George Washington University, Shanna Cox of CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health, and Claudia Booker, a certified midwife. Maddy Oden served as the event moderator.

Saying “No” to Induction

The Journal of Perinatal Education | Judith A. Lothian, PhD, RN, LCCE, FAACE | Spring 2006

While written over a decade ago, this Journal of Perinatal Education article is more important than ever given the rising rate of labor inductions and maternal morbidity. In this article, childbirth educator Judith Lothian encourages women to say “no” to induction, explaining that the last days and weeks of pregnancy are vitally important for both the mother and her baby, insuring the baby’s maturity and the mother’s readiness for labor. Thus, women should have confidence that when their body and their baby are ready, labor will begin spontaneously.

Race Isn’t a Risk Factor in Maternal Health. Racism Is.

Rewire News | Dr. Joia Crear-Perry | 4/11/18

In this important article, Dr. Perry seeks to change the way we talk about race, risk, and maternal death. Dr. Perry acknowledges that mainstream media now writes about how Black women in the U.S. are the most likely to die from pregnancy-related complications, however, she advocates to list racism, rather than race, as a modifiable risk factor for poor maternal health outcomes.

Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis

The New York Times Magazine | Linda Villarosa | 4/11/18

This in-depth article sheds light on why black women in America experience significantly worse maternal health outcomes than white women. The reporter points to societal racism and racial bias in the health care system as key reasons to racial disparities in maternal and infant mortality rates.

Is it negligent to use Cytotec (misoprostol) for labor induction without adequate patient consent? | Dr.  Amos Grunebaum | 4/9/18

This article sheds light on the dangers of Cytotec during pregnancy. The author lays out what constitutes medical negligence, cites multiple FDA statements about the use and risks of Cytotec during pregnancy, and highlights Tatia’s story.

Here’s One Issue Blue and Red States Agree On: Preventing Deaths of Expectant and New Mothers

ProPublica | Nina Martin and Robin Fields | 3/26/18

In the latest article of ProPublica’s award-winning ‘Lost Mothers’ series, reporters Nina Martin and Robin Fields highlight states’ efforts to establish maternal mortality review committees in response to increased awareness of the high rate of maternal deaths in our country. About 35 states have established review committees, which would help states to examine deaths and near-deaths among expectant and new mothers and determine strategies to improving maternal health.

Systemic Racism Might Help Explain Why Black Women Are More Likely to Die From Pregnancy Than White Women

Jezebel | Prachi Gupta | 2/1/18

A new report by the Center for American Progress analyzing why black women are at the forefront of America’s maternal mortality crisis suggests that lifelong stress from racism and sexism may be to blame. The report analyzed multiple studies on maternal and infant mortality and found that controlling for poverty, mental and physical health, and prenatal care did not fully explain why black women die at such a higher rates.

Evidence grows that normal childbirth takes longer than we thought

Science News | Aimee Cunningham | 1/16/18

A new study challenges the notion that the cervix should dilate by one centimeter per hour, changing the way doctors perceive the length of time it takes to deliver a baby. The study found that as long as the vital signs of the mother and baby are fine and the baby’s head is descending, a dilation rate of less than 1 centimeter per hour is not a sufficient reason to intervene.

Too many black women like Erica Garner are dying in America’s maternal mortality crisis

Vox | P.R. Lockhart | 1/10/18

This article about the death of Erica Garner highlights the severe racial disparities the U.S. faces with maternal mortality. Research shows that various factors – like institutionalized racism, inadequate access to pre- and postnatal care, chronic stress, and lack of medical treatment before childbirth – contribute to high rates of maternal mortality among women of color. Her death is another story that shows the need for the U.S. to address this alarming racial disparity.

Black Women Disproportionately Suffer Complications of Pregnancy and Childbirth. Let’s Talk About It.

ProPublica | Adriana Gallardo | 12/8/17

In this article, reporter Adriana Gallardo highlights the stark racial disparities in pregnancy-related complications, stating that black mothers are three to four times more likely than white mothers to die of causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. In an effort to get to the root of this issue, the reporter identified six black women who suffered severe pregnancy complications, asked them to share their story with a loved one, and featured “snippets” of these conversations in this article.

Misoprostol drug to be withdrawn from French market (Republished Article)

The Lancet | Barbara Casassus | 10/28/17

Original Article

A Matter Of Life & Death: Why Are Black Women In The U.S. More Likely To Die During Or After Childbirth?

Essence | Meaghan Winter | 9/26/17

This is the story of Fathiyyah “Tia” Doster and the pregnancy complications that she experienced.

Why Is U.S. Maternal Mortality So High?

Slate | Cara Heuser and Chavi Eve Karkowsky | 5/23/17

The main reason is not medical errors. It’s poverty and access to health care.

NICE Guidelines on Inducing Labor

Although a very long article (32 pages) on induction, the NICE guidelines , from the UK are very through and state that “misoprostol should only be given in the case of fetal death”. The guidelines also stress the necessity of FULLY informed consent and take into account the wishes of the mom.

Twin Births: Vaginal Delivery Safer Than Caesarean

Medscape | Norra MacReady | 5/9/17

Results of a large population-based study of twin births show that vaginal delivery is associated with less neonatal morbidity and mortality than cesarean delivery, and should be the birth method of choice when the first twin has a cephalic presentation.

ACOG’s New Childbirth Recommendations Aim to Limit Interventions

 Think About Now | Emily Wade | 5/3/17

In February 2017, ACOG released a committee opinion report titled “Approaches to Limit Intervention During Labor and Birth” which lists routine interventions that they think are not necessary or beneficial and should no longer be practiced.

Skip The Newborn Vit. K Shot

The Healthy Economist | Sarah | 1/25/17

A blog post that discusses how Oral Vit. K and other alternatives to the Vit. K shot are much safer.

ACOG: Hands-Off Approach for Low-Risk Pregnancies

MedPage Today | Molly Walker | 1/25/17

Obstetric care providers should attempt to limit labor and delivery interventions for “low-risk” term pregnancies, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

US maternal mortality rate on the uptick – statistics

Becker’s ASC Review | Mary Rechtoris | 10/7/16

Mary Rechtoris brings attention to the rise of maternal mortality rates and six statistics that you need to know.

Why U.S. Women Still Die During Childbirth

Time | Alexandra Sifferlin | 9/27/16

Alexandra Sifferlin reports some of the reasons for the maternal mortality rate in the United States. Some factors she discuses are problems keeping track of records, obesity, inconsistency in record-keeping, racial disparities, more cesarean births, and women having children much later in life.

Maternal Mortality Rate in U.S. Rises, Defying Global Trend, Study Finds

The New York Times | Sabrina Tavernise | 9/21/16

A recent study shows that maternal mortality rates in the United States may be linked to obesity. The study claims that the healthcare system does not provide adequate care for chronic conditions.

Maternal health: Disparities in care quality, access to services a major concern

Medical News Today | Honor Whiteman | 9/16/16

A new series of studies investigated the quality of health care for women and babies. Some factors include poor access to quality maternal health care and disparities across high-income countries. The article also provides some key strategies to help fix this problem.

Epidurals: risks and concerns for mother and baby

 Dr. Sarah J. Buckley | 2005

In this article, previously published in Mothering magazine, Dr. Sarah Buckley provides a comprehensive overview of the history of epidurals and the risks associated with its use in childbirth. Dr. Buckley advises that while epidurals are an effective pain-relief procedure for women in labor, they should be used with caution. Some of the risks of epidurals include: slower labor, blood pressure drop, breathing difficulties, and postpartum hemorrhaging. Additionally, women who use epidurals report feeling less satisfied with their birth experience than women who do not.