Maternal and Infant Health Crisis: What You Need to Know

Patrice Hatcher, MBA, BSN, RNC-NIC / January 2019


Each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collects and distributes data surrounding maternal and infant mortality. What is most alarming in the recent report is the critically high rate of maternal mortality in the U.S. The statistics are astounding, revealing that 700 women die each year in the United States because of pregnancy or delivery complications.3

Medela’s destiny statement reads that “we exist to enhance mother and baby health,” and we passionately advocate for improving the health and mortality rate of infants through the benefits of their mother’s own milk, as well as the positive impacts breastfeeding has on a mother’s own health outcomes.1 Because of this, and despite this topic not directly relating to breast milk feeding, we feel compelled to raise awareness of this crisis, discuss what is being done, and share ways to get involved.

What is being done to lower maternal and infant mortality

  • The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report to Congress on Newborn Health and Federal Action Needed to Address Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome encourages maternal breastfeeding as it significantly reduces the severity and costs of NAS.2

The Bill – H.R.6 — 115th Congress (2017-2018)5 influences several changes to state Medicaid programs to address opioid and substance use disorders including Sec. 1005. Guidance to improve care for infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome and their mothers; GAO study on GAPS in Medicaid coverage for pregnant and postpartum women with substance use disorder.5

  • Perinatal Quality Collaboratives of multi-disciplinary networks have been working together at state and multi-state levels to improve the quality of care and improve maternal and infant outcomes. PQCs have contributed to improvements in mothers and babies, including: reduction in deliveries before 39 weeks, and a reduction in severe pregnancy complications.
  • The Senate unanimously passed the PREEMIE Reauthorization Act, a renewal of the only federal law dedicated to preventing and treating preterm birth. Medela is proud to support the March of Dimes and their efforts to address premature births, including this law. Now, it’s onto the House of Representatives.7

What does this mean:

More needs to be done! My philosophy has always been, “more hands make work light” and it applies here very well. More healthcare professionals, at all levels and disciplines involved and contributing, can improve and turn around these devastating outcomes. This is already at the state and national level, and yet, more support is needed.  If you want to learn more about this issue, visit the CDC Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System website and the March of Dimes federal advocacy website.3,6

To turn around the current rates of maternal and infant mortality, more government support will be needed to develop sustainable solutions. We must get involved with organizations that are passionate in the fight to improve the health of mothers and infants. To improve outcomes, this will require national support from healthcare professionals on all levels. To learn more or to find out how you can get involved, click through the links in this post.

This is Part I of II – my next blog will focus on maternal and infant disparities, closing the gap, and how to get involved.


  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. Retrieved from
  2. GAO: Newborn Health. Federal Action Needed to Address Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reproductive Health. Retrieved on October 19, 2018 from
  4. HR6 Support for Patients and Communities Act.
  5. R.6 — 115th Congress (2017-2018). Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act or the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act.
  6. March of Dimes (MOD). Healthy Mom Healthy Baby.
  7. PREEMIE Act of 2018.
  8. Medela. New Research Reveals Access to Breastfeeding Counseling and Supplies Have High Rewards, Low Cost. June 2017.



About the Author

Patrice Hatcher, MBA, BSN, RNC-NIC, began her practice more than 24 years ago as a neonatal nurse working in NICU. She has experience in various nursing leadership roles including neonatal transport nurse, outpatient nurse manager, and administrative nurse manager overseeing operations of large intensive care units. She has special interest in quality improvement and improving clinical outcomes for neonates. Patrice currently works full-time as a Clinical NICU Specialist for Medela LLC.