Giving Birth in America: Building a Movement

The United States is facing a maternal health crisis. The rate of mothers dying due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth has nearly doubled in the last 25 years, making the US the only wealthy country where rates of maternal mortality are actually increasing. Every eight minutes, a woman suffers a life-threatening — and often debilitating — complication of pregnancy or childbirth. The maternity care system is failing women, especially mothers of color. Black women are nearly four times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than white women. The need to make change to save mothers’ lives and livelihood is critical.

And people are starting to listen.

Momentum to turn the tide on the US maternal health crisis has only grown in the past year. ProPublica and NPR uncovered stories behind maternal deaths and complications in their Lost Mothers series, bringing long-overdue public awareness to the issue. Activists and advocates have started gathering annually to demonstrate the glaring need to do better for mothers in the United States at the March for Moms. The Black Mamas Matter Alliance led the inaugural Black Maternal Health Awareness Week to amplify the voices of communities of color in addressing the drastic disparities in maternal health outcomes for Black women.

Politicians have started to take notice of our collective voices rising up to support our mothers. With the increase in public awareness about poor maternal health outcomes and possible solutions, community members and advocates have increased pressure on lawmakers at the city, state, and national levels to make maternity care accessible and of quality. Federal legislation, like the Improving Access to Maternity Care Act and the Maternal Health Accountability Act, have moved further forward than ever before, and legislation in maternity care system reform has started to pop up state by state.

As longtime advocates for improving maternal health in the United States, we are excited to be a part of this movement and see support for change building across the country. While the statistics of maternal deaths and disabilities are alarming, Every Mother Counts has been highlighting the stories of the women and healthcare providers who are making change right now.

To raise awareness about maternal health issues across the United States, we started the Giving Birth in America film series in 2015 to highlight some of the challenges and the solutions to providing safe, respectful, and equitable maternity care in the United States. Giving Birth in America spotlights different experiences with and aspects of the maternity care system in a variety of states, starting with the women and families behind the statistics. Each film in the series takes a look at the midwives, doctors, doulas, nurses, and advocates who are providing compassionate, high-quality care and making change in the maternity care system in the United States.

To learn more about maternal health in the United States, watch our Giving Birth in America series, highlighting mothers and care providers’ stories from New York, Florida, Montana, and Louisiana on CNN.com today.

By Yuki Davis, Programs Associate at Every Mother Counts

Topics: Maternal Health, Pregnancy