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WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Planned Parenthood joins the third annual March for Moms rally in Washington, DC to address the national maternal mortality crisis and advocate for better access to health care for moms and families. The rally marks the end of National Maternal Health Week, capping off seven days of organized activities led by March for Moms to bring awareness to the poor state of maternal health in this country.

American women today are fifty percent more likely to die in the period surrounding childbirth than their own mothers were. Racial disparities in care have led to Black women dying from pregnancy-related complications at 3 to 4 times the rate of white women. Despite the common misconception that the majority of maternal deaths occur during childbirth, nearly two-thirds occur before or up to a year afterwards. In fact, only 36 percent of maternal deaths take place during childbirth or in the week immediately following. According to the CDC, 3 out of 5 maternal deaths are preventable. These preventable deaths occur because of complications that modern medicine can manage, like high blood pressure or hemorrhage. But too many women lack adequate prenatal and postpartum care, so they and their doctors don’t know what alarming symptoms to be on the lookout for.  And the CDC found that care for mothers who died of preventable conditions was plagued by misdiagnosis, ineffective treatments and a lack of coordination among providers. Stigma, and the structural racism that has created additional barriers for Black women to receive high-quality care and have healthy pregnancies, have created this public health crisis.

Statement from Dr. Leana Wen, President, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

This Mother’s Day, I march for moms because healthy children and healthy families start with healthy moms. Right now, our country faces a maternal mortality crisis — it is unconscionable that American women are more likely to die in childbirth than our own mothers and shameful that Black women continue to die at higher rates than White women. We must come together to call out these structural inequities and combat the stigma and structural racism that created this public health crisis.

“As one of few national health care organizations focused on serving and supporting mother's and families throughout a woman's reproductive life, Planned Parenthood marches with all those committed to improving health for mothers and children, and eliminating disparities in maternal and infant mortality. And as the mother of my beautiful 20 month-old son, I am proud to March for Moms so that all our children grow up in a society that ensures health care is a fundamental right for all, not a privilege reserved only for some.

Maternal health is greatly impacted by a woman’s ability to access the full range of reproductive and preventative health care long before, during, and after pregnancy. At a time when challenges to maternal health are so widespread, women’s health care should be protected and expanded. Instead, across the country, political attacks on reproductive health care have skyrocketed — from restrictions and outright bans on abortion; to laws attempting to roll back access to birth control and cancer screenings; to the Trump-Pence administration’s attempt to dismantle Title X, the nation’s program for affordable birth control and reproductive health care, with an illegal and unethical gag rule; to attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid program. Since as many as 40 percent of women are not able to complete a postpartum visit, Title X clinics can be a lifeline of community-based support to new mothers in the months that follow birth and can help address or prevent issues that contribute to maternal death. These restrictions have also sparked grassroots backlash across the country, with more and more women and families taking action to advocate for better access to health care.

Planned Parenthood’s more than 600 health centers provide a number of essential health care services that contribute to maternal health and women’s health more broadly. These services include: hypertension screening, BMI screening, cervical and breast cancer screening, STI screening, testing and treatment, intimate partner violence (IPV) screening and referral, and postpartum contraception. All health centers also offer screening for high blood pressure, screens for suicidal ideation and substance use disorder, and connections to treatment for those with mental health concerns and addiction — which are all critical pre- and post-partum services for expectant and new moms.

Many affiliates also work to promote maternal health through diabetes screening, depression screening, obesity management, screening for substance use, smoking cessation support, screening for environmental and teratogenic exposures, vaccination (including flu), preconception genetic screening, care of patients experiencing miscarriage, as well as primary care and behavioral health. And a few provide prenatal care, care for post-partum patients, and additional services including mental health counseling, home visiting for new mothers, and housing resources.

For more information on Planned Parenthood’s resources and advocacy for moms, text “Moms” to 22422.

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Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.