The US maternal mortality rate is higher than that of any other high-income country in the world, and it is nearly three times greater for Black and Indigenous women than for white women. Despite these alarming statistics, policies to address the maternal health crisis continue to fall short as the US maternal mortality rate continues to rise.

Although policymakers and advocates have ramped up efforts to address the maternal health crisis in recent years, the experiences and preferences of people who become pregnant and give birth have not always been reflected. Without their perspectives, policies are disconnected from patients’ preferences and risk being ineffective or causing more harm.

“It’s essential to have the voices of those individuals who would be most affected by maternity care policies reflected in the discussion,” said Sarah Benatar, a principal research associate in the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center. By listening to the people most affected by maternal health care policies, policymakers can better understand their experiences and craft policies that meet their needs.

Urban researchers conducted interviews and small-group discussions with more than 30 women who had given birth in the last five years to better understand how their maternity care preferences align with proposed maternity care solutions. (To reflect how the interviewees identify, we use the terms “women” and “mothers” throughout this piece. However, we recognize that not all people who become pregnant and give birth identify as women.) They also spoke with maternal health stakeholders, including providers and advocates.

These research findings show that women want to feel cared for, informed, and respected throughout their pregnancy journeys. Several policies and strategies could help achieve this goal:

  • Extending postpartum Medicaid coverage.
  • Ensuring guidelines about postpartum care are reflected in practice. 
  • Equipping patients and providers with information about the breadth of care options. 
  • Diversifying the maternal health care workforce. 
  • Training providers to treat patients with compassion and respect.
  • Shifting the maternity care model.

Read the full article about maternal health policies by Sarah Benatar, Eona Harrison, Jackie Liu, Zara Porter, and Emily M. Johnston at Urban Institute.