Kira Finkel

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about to how to celebrate and honor the mothers in our lives. While the day should be a momentous occasion filled with gratitude and appreciation, for some families, Mother’s Day serves as a painful reminder of moms we’ve loved and lost, including those who never got a chance to experience the joy of motherhood.  

Raising awareness about maternal health is one of the many issues we here at Reservoir Communications Group are proud to work closely with our clients on. As many of us get ready to celebrate Mother’s Day, we also want to take the opportunity to shine a light on some of the most challenging issues that unfortunately face so many women across the United States.

A recent surge in media coverage about pregnancy-related complications and deaths has helped to bring the issue of preventable maternal mortality to the forefront of national consciousness, and underscore the need to improve treatments and outcomes for moms and babies. Stories like CNN’s piece about maternal health inequities, analysis of new CDC pregnancy-related death data in the New York Times and CBS’s report on recent maternal health legislation have helped to pull back the curtain on maternal and infant health, and reveal the reality of our country’s current crisis.

The United States struggles significantly more than other developed nations to prevent pregnancy-related deaths. We spend more than any other country on hospital-based maternal care, yet our maternal mortality rate (MMR) has steadily increased since the 1990s, from 17 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 26 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015.

Pregnancy-related health conditions such as preeclampsia – high blood pressure after the 20th week of pregnancy or after giving birth – contribute to the increasing MMR. As one of the leading causes of maternal morbidity and mortality, preeclampsia results in poor birth outcomes. Annually, 140,000 pregnant women are affected by preeclampsia in the United States. Under-treated health conditions like preeclampsia are among the key challenges to addressing our maternal health crisis.

Racial inequalities in maternal care also significantly contribute to the rising MMR in this country. There are significant disparities in maternal mortality rates as minority women are more likely to experience a pregnancy-related health condition or death. In fact, black mothers die 3 to 4 times more than their white counterparts during pregnancy. Also, black women are 60% more likely to experience preeclampsia and 49% more likely to delivery prematurely than their white counterparts.

Raising awareness about the maternal health crisis is necessary to generate social momentum and drive substantial policy change. Giving voices to organizations who advocate on behalf of mothers and babies, particularly moms of color, is crucial to eliminate biases and improve access to quality maternal health care for every family. 

We at Reservoir work to raise awareness of these issues with our clients every day and are committed to helping them advance solutions to address maternal health including sponsoring the upcoming Boston March for Babies walk on May 11. Advocates such as the March of Dimes are partnering with the community and with a wide array of corporate sponsors—from hospitals, to health plans and biopharmaceutical companies—to help draw attention to health inequities and work toward improving maternal health outcomes for all moms.  But there are many other actors who are helping sound the alarm in maternal health care.

Policymakers who address maternal health issues in their election platforms or through legislation help to normalize the topic and bring much needed attention to the issue. Media outlets who report stories of mother’s struggle and successes with child delivery raise awareness about maternal-health and the gaps in care. The private sector also plays a vital role, with biopharmaceutical companies developing new treatments where there is unmet need and health plans helping women, particularly those facing high risk pregnancies, actively manage their health. Every part of our society and our health care system must work together to address this challenge.

So, this Mother’s Day, we’ll be celebrating the moms in our lives with a special nod to the all the advocates from across our communities who are working to ensure that every new mother can live a long and healthy life.