Promoting Good Health for Black Mothers & Their Families in Pennsylvania

Pregnancy and those first weeks and months with your child are a beautiful, transformative time. Those times can also be physically and mentally difficult and occasionally overwhelming.

Nearly 60 percent of pregnancy-associated deaths happen between 42 days and one year after giving birth. In Pennsylvania, these pregnancy-related deaths are higher among Black women and women whose births were covered by Medicaid. The most common cause of death in the late postpartum period is heart failure or heart attack. Again, this disproportionately affects Black women and women with low incomes who receive their health coverage through Medicaid.

This is unacceptable. Black mothers deserve better.

Black mothers deserve comprehensive care for the physical and emotional trauma of birth that does not disappear at a six-week postpartum visit. Since taking office, Governor Wolf has prioritized expanding access to health care and supportive services that help parents through pregnancy and the postpartum period and gives children a strong, healthy start that can lead to continued good health, well-being and positive outcomes throughout their lives.

Medicaid Extension of Postpartum Coverage Period

Effective April 1, 2022, under the American Rescue Plan Act, Pennsylvania extended the Medicaid postpartum coverage period for mothers and birthing people who are eligible for the program because of their pregnancy to one year following the birth of a baby. Previously, Medicaid — or Medical Assistance in Pennsylvania — provides coverage for people eligible due to their pregnancy ended 60 days after giving birth. Extending postpartum coverage for those covered through Medicaid will provide continuity in health care by allowing birthing parents to maintain relationships with and access to care providers undisrupted through a critical period in their lives and their babies’ lives.

Press Release: Extension Increases Access to Critical Postpartum Care

Statistics & Facts

  • About 3 in 10 births nationwide are paid for through Medicaid, but traditionally, coverage for people who qualify because they are pregnant ends 60 days following the birth of a baby unless their income or circumstances change.

Maternal Mortality

  • In Pennsylvania, pregnancy-related deaths grew by more than 21 percent between 2013 and 2018.
  • Nationally, about 12 percent of pregnancy-related deaths occur between six weeks and one year postpartum, but almost 60 percent of those are preventable.
  • Black women are 3 to 5 times more likely than white women to die after giving birth.
  • Statistics from 2020 show the pregnancy-related mortality rate of Black mothers was disproportionate to White and Hispanic mothers:
    • Black Mothers: 55.3 deaths per 100,000 births
    • White Mothers: 19.1 deaths per 100,000 births
    • Hispanic Mothers: 18.5 deaths per 100,000 births

Perinatal Mental Health

  • Perinatal depression is the most common complication during pregnancy and the postpartum period.
  • 1 in 7 women experience depression during or following a pregnancy, but too often it can go undiagnosed.
  • A 2018 study published by the National Institute of Health (NIH) reported that just 1 in 5 women report symptoms of depression or anxiety during or after a pregnancy to a health care provider, but follow through for treatment may be even lower, especially for women of color.

Quality of Care

  • People from some racial groups are more likely to be uninsured than non-Hispanic Whites.
  • Research indicates that 22 percent of Black women receive a lower quality of care than white women and are subject to discrimination in the health care field.
  • According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), in 2008 only 6.4 percent of obstetricians-gynecologists practiced in rural areas.

Additional Maternal Health Resources