Maternal Health Stats In 1970 Versus Today Show Improvements, But There's Still A Long Way To Go

Ad failed to load

Over the last four decades, the United States has seen dramatic advancements in medicine and medical technology. Better prevention, screening, and treatment of diseases and illnesses have improved health rates significantly. People are healthier and living longer, including mothers and their families. In fact, maternal health stats in 1970 versus today show that strides have been made. Still, that doesn't mean there isn't a long way to go, too.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that, in the 1970s, the infant mortality rate hovered around 20 percent, but dropped to around 10 percent in 1995. The rate decreased even further in that time: In 2010, 6.15 infant deaths per 1,000 live births were recorded in the United States, according to the National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health.

The number of live births, overall, has also decreased since the 1970s: from around 90 percent in 1970 to about 60 percent in 2016, according to the CDC's National Vital Statistics Report. The decrease in infant mortality rates and overall live births would suggest women have greater access to reproductive and prenatal health care, allowing them to not only better plan their families, but address any complications that may arise during pregnancy.

Ad failed to load

Smoking during pregnancy is another area where positive strides have been made in maternal health.

In the 1970s — and even earlier — it was not uncommon for a woman to smoke cigarettes while pregnant; at that time, the negative effects of smoking were not as well known as they are today. But the prevalence of prenatal smoking has declined drastically over the last four decades. Current data shows that the biggest drop in smoking among pregnant women occurred between 1989 and 2014: from almost 20 percent to 8 percent, according to Child Trends. (Estimates made available by the KIDS COUNT Data Center show that the prenatal tobacco use rate has hovered around 8 percent from 2013 to 2015.)

Ad failed to load

The downtrend in women smoking during pregnancy is a win for maternal health. A large body of research has linked smoking during pregnancy to premature birth, low birth weight, stillbirth, childhood asthma, and higher rates of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Although rates have declined significantly, the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion wants to see the number of women smoking during pregnancy fall even further: to 1.4 percent by 2020.

Despite these improvements, the United States still has a long way to go in addressing certain maternal health issues, such as postpartum depression and maternal mortality. The CDC estimates that, today, as many as one in nine women (or about 11 percent) experience postpartum depression within the first year after giving birth. That's a slight decrease from the number of women who reported postpartum depressive symptoms in 2004: About 14.8 percent, according to the CDC. (Earlier data is not available.)

Ad failed to load

Greater awareness of risk factors, improved prenatal and postnatal screening, and better treatment have all had a hand in the decline in PPD rates. But postpartum depression — and mental health, as a whole — is still heavily stigmatized in the United States. Although Obama-era health care reforms have made it possible for more parents to receive mental health help, Congress Republicans and the current administration continue to chip away at affordable and accessible health care. That includes not only (multiple failed) attempts to overturn the Affordable Care Act, but also budget proposals to drastically cut Medicaid funding.

So that means, despite the small dip in postpartum depression rates, far more parents are going without treatment during the first year after childbirth than there should be.

Ad failed to load

Maternal mortality is another area where the United States is failing. A study published in the Obstetrics & Gynecology in 2016 found that maternal death rates are on the rise in the United States. To be exact: The number of women who died during or shortly after giving birth increased by 27 percent between 2000 to 2014, according to the Obstetrics & Gynecology study. But the rates are not the same across all groups: Maternal mortality rates are three times higher among black mothers than their white counterparts, according to Vox.

The prevalence of pregnancy complications is also on the rise. Between 1993 and 2014, the number of hypertensive disorders increased from more than 500 per 10,000 delivery hospitalizations to nearly 900 per 10,000, according to the CDC. Postpartum hemorrhage has also spiked in that time: From less than 10 per 10,000 delivery hospitalizations to nearly 40 per 10,000.

That shouldn't be all that shocking when you consider the country's state of maternal health care. A 2006 Journal of Perinatal Education review found that women in the United States are just not given adequate postnatal care. Nor, the researchers wrote, is postnatal medical care "emphasized in national policies or national health objectives" in the country.

Ad failed to load

Although maternal health statistics have improved since the 1970s, there are still areas in which the country falls behind. And until those areas see drastic positive changes, the United States will continue to fail its mothers.

Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.

Ad failed to load
Ad failed to load
Must Reads

5 Parenting Habits That Increase Your Chances Of Successfully Potty-Training Your Child

From starting solids to learning to walk, every childhood milestone presents its own unique set of challenges — but this is especially true of potty training. Indeed, the very thought strikes fear into the heart of many a toddler parent, particularly…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

Getting Pregnant Might Mean Losing The Plus-Size Body I Love

For the last two years, I haven’t been my body’s biggest champion. I’ve gained 50 pounds. The stress of helping a parent get sober, a house purchase, and a new job got the best of me. But now, at 36, with talks between my husband and I about having a…
By Loren Kleinman

7 Hilarious Differences Between Having A Baby In Your 20s Vs Your 30s

I was 24 when I had my daughter. And even though that pregnancy was neither expected nor pleasant, I was optimistic. Sure, I guess your 20s are "supposed" to be about finding yourself, finishing college, starting your career, and navigating less-than…
By Candace Ganger

Babies "R" Us Was The First Place I Went When I Found Out I Would Be A Mom

For years I struggled to have a baby, and the sight of toys and layettes made my heart hurt. For me, Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us were a complete no-go zone, a reminder of everything I was missing out on. My mom would walk the long way around Target…
By Becky Bracken

New Moms Have Two Options: Be "Sad & Fat" Or "Desperate & Thin"

As the line goes, the worst thing you could say about me, I've already thought about myself. In the early postpartum period with my son, it was: "I am overweight, lonely, and heartbroken." It was four days after I brought my son into the world, and I…
By Danielle Campoamor

6 Fascinating Facts About Spring Babies: You Could Have A Leader On Your Hands

Does the season in which you are born affect you or are all seasons pretty equal? It turns out that there are many ways in which the your child's birth season could give you an insight into things to come. Whether you are expecting a baby in the next…
By Shari Maurer

Kids Will Love These TV Shows & Movies Coming To Netflix In April

It's that time of the month again: as March draws to a close, Netflix gets ready for a little bit of spring cleaning. Though some TV shows and movies will have to find homes elsewhere, their departure makes room for all kinds of exciting new media. A…
By Megan Walsh

I'm A Stay-At-Home Mom &, Face It, These 11 Stereotypes Are Totally True

Hello, friends! It's me, your resident stay-at-home mom. You know, there's a lot that's said about me and my kind, and the vast majority of it is not even remotely true. For example, this whole "we're lazy, vapid, unambitious, anti-feminist, backstab…
By Jamie Kenney

The Pressure To Worry About The Gap Between Kids Is So Bad For Moms

"Two under two is absolutely crazy," a friend recently told me upon hearing the news that I was expecting a second child. "Why would you do this to yourself? Seriously, why?" However harsh her words, she was only echoing the same feelings I'd been ba…
By Marie Southard Ospina

To Be Honest, I Couldn't Survive Motherhood Without My Job

The decision to work outside the home once you've become a parent can be a complicated one. Some people don't really have a choice, and go back to work because they're either a single parent or can't sustain their family on one income. Some choose to…
By Priscilla Blossom

I Feel Guilty That My Kid’s Dad Is A Better Parent Than Me, & That’s BS

I was scared, and he was sure. I was clueless, and he was well-researched. I was making mistakes, and he was picking up the pieces. From the moment I found out I was pregnant until just last night, when I threw my hands up in the air and left the alw…
By Danielle Campoamor

These Millennial Parents Are Taking Gender-Neutral Parenting To An Entirely New Level

A woman on the subway looks at my bulbous shape and asks, “What are you having?” I take a deep breath and throw a glance to my 5-year-old. “I’m having a baby,” I say to the woman. “No, no” the woman says laughing as she pushes further. “Are you havin…
By Madison Young

My Daughter Is Obsessed With Being "Pretty" & I'm Way Past Terrified

Last week, when I picked up my daughter after school, she immediately wanted to know if I liked her hair. "Is it pretty?" she asked. Her hair was pulled up into two ponytails that were intertwined into thick, long braids. A shimmering pink and purple…
By Dina Leygerman

7 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 20s, But I Will

I was 24 when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. The pregnancy was a surprise, since I was on birth control (side note: antibiotics and birth control don't mix), but my partner and I decided to continue with the pregnancy and committed to m…
By Candace Ganger

7 Things I Wish My Partner Had Said To Me In The First Hour After Giving Birth

I don't know if it was the buzz of the surrounding machines, the non-existent cry of our son as the doctors tried to resuscitate him, or the fact that I'd already been through labor and delivery once before, but I knew something was missing after I h…
By Candace Ganger

Moms’ Groups Weren’t For Me, Sorry

I go to my moms’ club everyday of the week, but not usually on weekends. My moms' group is a place I can always count on finding fellow mothers who understand the daily struggles and triumphs of parenthood and of juggling life’s responsibilities. Dep…
By Samantha Taylor

I've Had 3 Miscarriages But *Please* Keep Telling Me About Your Pregnancy

I can feel the tension the moment my friend announces her pregnancy. I can hear the forced nonchalant attitude she's willing herself to exude as she fishes for the ultrasound. I know why I was the last to learn that she was expecting; why she keeps l…
By Danielle Campoamor

7 Early Signs You're Going To Need An Epidural, According To Experts

Even if you've constructed an elaborate birth plan, it's impossible to control every aspect of labor and delivery. Complications can occur, proactive measures might be necessary, and your mind is subject to change when those damn contractions really …
By Candace Ganger

11 Essential Products To Pack In Your Hospital Bag, According To OB-GYNs

The minute you go into labor (or think you're going into labor), chaos ensues. You and your partner are likely to get a little frantic, just like in the movies, so you most definitely want to have a hospital bag packed before the day comes. This prec…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

7 Photos You *Must* Take In The First 6 Months Of Motherhood

In my experience, becoming a mom is like becoming an amateur photographer. There's just something about the need to capture every single coo and sorta-smile that leaves you obsessed with all things photography. I know I couldn't stop taking selfies w…
By Candace Ganger