Opinion: Improving maternal health outcomes requires better support during postpartum year

Improving maternal health outcomes in the U.S.—where mortality rates are higher than comparable countries and Black and Indigenous people are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white people—will require an increased focus on support during the postpartum year, according to a December 17, 2021 JAMA Health Forum Viewpoint co-authored by Jessica Cohen, Bruce A. Beal, Robert L. Beal, and Alexander S. Beal Associate Professor of Global Health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Half of pregnancy-related mortality and a substantial share of maternal morbidity occur during the first year after birth, Cohen and co-author Jamie Daw of Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health wrote. They noted that many patients face an abrupt postpartum healthcare “cliff” as they transition from pregnancy to parenthood, which can include difficulties with insurance and lack of support during the handoff of their care between physicians.

The authors called for coordinated policies that address these cliffs and the social challenges faced by new parents, such as access to paid leave and quality childcare. They wrote, “By piecing together evidence-based solutions promoting access, engagement, accountability, and measurement, we can begin to follow through on the commitment to stem the rising tide of pregnancy-related morbidity and mortality in the U.S.”

Read the JAMA Health Forum Viewpoint: Postpartum Cliffs—Missed Opportunities to Promote Maternal Health in the United States