Reducing Maternal Mortality

Every 10 minutes a woman nearly dies from complications of pregnancy or childbirth in the U.S. Watch this video to learn about the issues surrounding maternal mortality and what's being done to help at-risk women.

Mother and newborn

Every year in the U.S. more than 50,000 women die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth.

Obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Priya Agrawal, Executive Director of Merck for Mothers, and Alma Roberts, President and CEO of Baltimore Healthy Start, answer SheKnows Pregnancy and Baby's questions about the issues surrounding maternal mortality and what their organizations are doing to help address this growing problem.

What is maternal mortality?

"A maternal death is when a women dies of complications during pregnancy or childbirth or the six weeks after the end of her pregnancy," Dr. Agrawal explains.

Growing problem for women in the U.S.

When we hear of maternal mortality, we tend to think it's an issue that effects women in developing countries -- not here in our own backyard. Dr. Agrawal explains while maternity mortality rates are declining for women in developing countries, it's actually a growing problem for women locally.

In the last 20 years, the rates of maternal mortality have doubled in the U.S. "Every 10 minutes a woman nearly dies of life-threatening complications during pregnancy and childbirth," she tells us.

Merck for Mothers

To address this serious issue, global healthcare company Merck created Merck for Mothers, a 10-year, $500 million initiative focused on decreasing the number of women who die or suffer from severe complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Merck is already addressing the issue in more than 20 countries globally and has recently announced an initial commitment of $6 million to support programs in the U.S.

Watch the interview:

Dr. Agrawal and Alma Roberts answer our questions about maternal mortality, leading complications that effect at-risk women, the impact that the loss of a mother has on family, friends and her community, and how Merck for Mothers is partnering with Baltimore Healthy Start to help pregnant women who are at risk for maternal death.

For more information visit

About Dr. Priya Agrawal, BMBCh, MA, MPH, DFSRH:

Dr. Priya Agrawal is an Obstetrician and Gynecologist and global woman’s health expert. As Executive Director for Merck for Mothers, she is responsible for oversight and execution of programs focused on helping to decrease the number of women around the world who die or suffer from severe complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Dr. Agrawal previously served as Director of Research and Development for the Women and Health Initiative at the Harvard School of Public Health, where she led implementation research and supported the development and evaluation of healthcare innovations. In 2012, Dr. Agrawal’s contributions to global women’s health were recognized with the Harvard School of Public Health Alumni Award for Public Health Professionals.

About Alma Roberts, President and CEO, Baltimore Healthy Start:

Alma Roberts joined Baltimore Healthy Start as President and CEO in 2006. She is the leader of the Maryland Health Disparities Coalition and the former CEO of the Center for Poverty Solutions. She has nearly 30 years of experience in designing and implementing programs and strategies to maximize the inclusion of the poor and uninsured into the mainstream health delivery system. She is also President of the Board of Directors of the National Healthy Start Association, which is the membership association for the federal Healthy Start programs.

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Tags: maternal health pregnancy complications

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