Maternal & Infant Health Disparities

Maternal health refers to a woman’s health as well as an infant’s health before, during, and after pregnancy. It spans from understanding how non-pregnancy conditions (such as lupus or diabetes) affect maternal health outcomes to reducing disease and death among mothers and babies, and addressing health disparities across diverse populations.

For decades, pregnant or lactating women were excluded from participating in clinical research due to safety and efficacy concerns and unknowns, resulting in a lack of information to properly guide health outcomes for this vulnerable population of women. Limited access to high quality maternal health services, obstetric workforce shortages, and social determinants of health further contribute to disparities in maternal health care across diverse populations of women and their babies. Approximately 700 women die each year in the United States because of pregnancy or delivery complications, and more than 50,000 women survive pregnancy and delivery but are left with significant adverse health consequences. It is crucial for women to receive appropriate health care throughout their perinatal experience to decrease the risk and rate of maternal mortality and morbidity in the United States.

Maternal & Infant Health Disparities are part of the SWHR Maternal Health Network, which engages the following focus areas: Expanded Carrier Screening, Fertility, Maternal & Infant Health Disparities, and Noninvasive Prenatal Screening.

Program Goals

  • Address disparities in health care access and coverage for women to improve maternal and infant health, and reduce pregnancy-related morbidity and mortality
  • Discuss strategies to address America’s maternal health crisis, with special focus on high-risk pregnancies, preterm birth, and health disparities among marginalized populations of women
  • Engage policy leaders to advocate for research funding in maternal and fetal research and for the inclusion of pregnant and lactating populations in clinical trials
  • Develop informative materials for public and policy stakeholder outreach to improve maternal health care education and outcomes for all women

Facts about Maternal & Infant Health Disparities


women die each year in the United States due to pregnancy or delivery complications


of births in the United States occur in counties that have limited access to maternity care


increased likelihood for Black women to die from childbirth than non-Hispanic white women

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