Supporting Moms’ Health in the Postpartum Period


The postpartum period is an important time for both mothers and newborns and is increasingly recognized as an opportune time for policy intervention. Although pregnancy-related deaths are rare in the United States, hundreds die from pregnancy complications each year. Pregnancy-related deaths have increased over the last several decades and reveal notable disparities by race.

More than half of pregnancy-related deaths occur within one year after childbirth. In 2020, more than 30,000 women experienced severe pregnancy complications that can have serious implications for lifelong health.

Yet most pregnancy-related deaths are preventable. Experts point to ongoing care in the “fourth trimester,” the period up to a year following birth, as a crucial time for early recognition and management of potential complications.

Several factors influence a healthy pregnancy, birth and postpartum period for both mother and infant. The postpartum period is an important time for recovery, addressing delivery complications, managing infant care and setting the stage for long-term health and well-being.

Pregnancy-Related Mortality Statistics

  • 53% of pregnancy-related deaths occur 7 to 365 days postpartum.
  • 84% of all pregnancy-related deaths are considered preventable.
  • The most frequent underlying causes of pregnancy-related death are:
    • Mental health conditions (22.7%)
    • Hemorrhage (13.7%)
    • Cardiac and coronary conditions (12.8%)
    • Infection (9.2%)
    • Thrombotic embolism (8.7%)
    • Cardiomyopathy (8.5%)

Pregnancy-related mortality rates are two to three times higher among non-Hispanic Black and American Indian/Alaskan Native populations compared to white populations.

Strategies that increase access to health care services, mental health services, substance use disorder treatment, family planning services, breastfeeding support and care coordination during the postpartum period can improve health outcomes and ensure a strong start for families. This report includes background and state examples of legislative policy options for the following issues:

  • Postpartum insurance coverage.
  • Depression and substance use during and after pregnancy.
  • Postpartum long-acting reversible contraception.
  • Breastfeeding.
  • Home visiting.

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