September 27, 2018

In testimony before Congress today, March of Dimes President Stacey D. Stewart said the United States is the most dangerous place in developed world to give birth and urged lawmakers to pass legislation that prevents maternal mortality or life-threatening complications resulting from pregnancy.

Stewart told members of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health that 700 mothers die during childbirth each year, and more than 50,000 others experience dangerous complications that could have killed them. Her testimony was presented as part of the subcommittee’s hearing on legislation to reduce maternal mortality in the U.S.

“Across our nation, virtually every measure of the health of pregnant women, new mothers, and infants is going in the wrong direction,” Stewart said. “The number of babies born preterm is rising…Nations like Slovenia and French Polynesia have a better infant mortality rate than the U.S.”

Stewart also noted that while other countries have reduced their maternal mortality rates, the number of women dying from pregnancy-related causes in the U.S. has doubled in the last 25 years.

“Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women – a truly shocking and appalling disparity,” she said.

To address this public health crisis, Stewart called for the swift passage of H.R. 1318, the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act, which provides funding to states and tribes to establish and improve maternal mortality review committees. These committees include local experts on maternal, infant and public health who investigate cases of maternal death and develop recommendations to prevent them. 

Stewart stressed that maternal mortality is not a single problem with a single solution, saying the underlying causes include physical and mental health, social determinants and much more. She called for a series of hearings into the root causes and for lawmakers to pass additional measures to improve maternal and child health. 

To read Stewart’s written testimony, click here.