Washington, D.C.—Today, in observance of Maternal Health Awareness Day (MHAD), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is convening maternal health partners, health policy leaders, and other stakeholders across the country in raising awareness about the underlying causes of maternal deaths through this year’s theme—Know Why.
This will be the third year that ACOG has led national observance of MHAD, and it comes at a time when much is at stake for pregnant and postpartum people, as the country faces a worsening maternal mortality crisis.
“Understanding the underlying causes of maternal deaths and the critical role that standardized data play in identifying causes and creating solutions is the first step to eliminating poor maternal health outcomes,” said ACOG President Iffath Abbasi Hoskins, MD, FACOG.
ACOG has encouraged its members, partners, and other stakeholders to take part in the observance by sharing their own resources, holding discussions, and creating activities for the public to learn from and participate in.
As part of the Know Why theme, ACOG will focus its activities on mental health conditions and cardiac and coronary conditions, two of the leading causes of U.S. maternal deaths from 2017 to 2019, as identified by 36 state maternal mortality review committees in a 2022 CDC report.
“It is noteworthy that the CDC, for the first time, identified mental health conditions as a leading underlying cause of pregnancy-related deaths, and it was extremely timely that Congress passed legislation last month to provide much-needed resources to address maternal mental health,” Hoskins said. “We cannot underestimate the impact of mental health conditions during the perinatal period and how harmful they can be if we don’t act quickly.”
ACOG praised Congress in December for passing the end-of-year package that included the Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act of 2022, which, among other things, will provide funding to support mental health screening and treatment.
Perinatal mental health is a priority for ACOG, and as such, the organization has developed several new clinical resources for obstetrician–gynecologists and other health care professionals. Through the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health—a national program to improve maternal health outcomes—ACOG just released last week a new patient safety bundle, a set of best practices to improve the process of care, for treating perinatal mental health conditions. The bundle will soon be followed by an implementation webinar and other accompanying materials.
ACOG has also made available new educational tools for obstetrician–gynecologists, which include “actionable information, algorithms, and clinical pearls to support detection, assessment, and treatment of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.”
Additionally, the end-of-year package Congress passed also made permanent an option for states to extend postpartum Medicaid beyond the standard 60 days to 12 months after delivery—a policy issue that ACOG has long advocated for and is still urging Congress to make mandatory.
Data show that cardiac and coronary conditions and other chronic health issues significantly contribute to preventable postpartum maternal mortality, and continuous coverage for a full year after delivery is critical to eliminating those deaths.
Hoskins said, “We must all take part in the effort to end the country’s maternal mortality crisis, and the simple act of raising awareness about the causes of death during and after pregnancy moves us one step closer to that goal.”