Efforts to improve pregnant women's health and outcomes

A doctor showing a tablet screen to a pregnant woman

Today, most women in the United States receive excellent health care during pregnancy. As a result, the U.S. infant mortality rate has dropped to an all-time low of 6 deaths per 1,000 births.1However, pregnancy-related deaths and serious complications for mothers have increased in the United States during the last 30 years, for reasons that are uncertain. The increase could be due to a combination of circumstances, including improved data collection on pregnancy mortality, an increase in the number of older mothers, and the increase in obesity among women.2

Researchers do know that pregnant women today are more likely to have chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease, which can put them at risk for poor outcomes.3 Also, large differences in pregnancy-related death and complications between racial and ethnic groups and geographic areas must be addressed.4 HHS is working to improve the health of all women, including women who may become pregnant.

Since the CDC began monitoring pregnancy health in 1987 with the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System, women have learned about the important ways they can improve their health during pregnancy. CDC launched the Show Your Love campaign in 2013. The campaign encourages women to get a checkup before they become pregnant, to help ensure a healthy pregnancy and baby.

Learning more about how medications affect women during pregnancy is also important to improve pregnancy outcomes. FDA encourages women to participate in Pregnancy Exposure Registries. These registries collect health information from women who take medications or get vaccines during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.

To promote healthy pregnancy and provide information about infant care, HHS entered into a public-private partnership to help launch text4baby in 2010.5 This mobile information service provides free text messages to pregnant women and new moms to help keep them safe and healthy. In 2012, CMS, HRSA, and ACF began the Strong Start initiative to help reduce early births and to improve outcomes for moms and babies.

Because of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, health insurance companies cannot deny women coverage, or charge them more, due to pre-existing health conditions, including a pregnancy.6The Affordable Care Act also requires insurance companies to cover, with no cost-sharing, many preventive services for pregnant women. Under the Affordable Care Act, maternity and newborn care is an essential health benefit that must be covered by all plans in the Marketplace.

Sources

  1. CDC, Recent Declines in Infant Mortality in the United States, 2005 - 2011
  2. CDC, Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System
  3. CDC, Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System
  4. CDC, Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System
  5. text4baby, Government Partner: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services
  6. HHS, Women and the Affordable Care Act