Pennsylvania Maternal Health State and County Fact Sheets Released

Maternal health ensures mothers and birthing parents are healthy and their children have the best start possible. Research shows healthy mothers are more likely to raise healthy babies. Unfortunately, the U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed countries, and racial disparities plague the health care system for Black and Brown women.

Our first-ever maternal health county fact sheets show each county’s overall perinatal vulnerability index (PVI). The PVI uses data across five domains: behavioral health, environmental context, health care availability, pregnancy and birth outcomes, and social stratification. The fact sheets also highlight data about prenatal care and the percentage of low birth weight births.

In 2020, there were over 130,000 total births across Pennsylvania. Yet, only 13 counties had moderate access to care, and six counties were considered maternity care deserts, based on the March of Dimes Maternity Care Deserts Report (2022).

Research shows low birth weight is a strong indicator of maternal health, and the rate increased nationally by 4% since 2014. When children are born with low birth weight, there is an increase in the risk for future health and developmental issues.

Racial disparities limit access to maternal health care and can impact the health of both mother and child:

  • The rate of non-Hispanic Black women giving birth to children with low birth weight is 14.5% compared to 6.8% of White women and almost double the state rate of 8.3% across all races.
  • When comparing counties, the rate of low birth weight among Black women ranged from 22.9% in Lebanon County to 7.5% in Bucks County.

Thriving PA aims for women and birth parents to have access to the health resources needed for a healthy pregnancy and delivery. Maternal health is necessary for raising healthy children, and more attention is needed to make maternal health care more accessible, especially for Black and Brown women who have a higher risk of poor birth outcomes and maternal mortality and morbidity.