Why Goldbug is Investing in Maternal Health

Why Goldbug is Investing in Maternal Health

By: Bentley Porterfield-Finn

As we gear up here at Goldbug to take on maternal mortality, I thought it would be helpful to frame the issue. A complicated topic to fully understand, I will start by laying out some of the basic research we have. There is so much enthusiasm for supporting the mothers and babies we serve in this new way, and we intend to focus our efforts on decreasing maternal mortality and morbidity for mothers of all backgrounds, and especially mothers of color.

There are many important questions about what it means to commit to taking on an issue like maternal mortality. Moving forward, I will work to frame the issue, provide data and background information, and offer suggestions for how we can work collectively to address this problem.

The United States is facing a maternal healthcare crisis. In a day where we can instantaneously communicate with someone half-way around the world and have mapped out the DNA of some of our most complicated diseases, too many mothers are dying during childbirth or in the year after birth.

We know that the health and well-being of mothers not only impacts their children and families, but it directly impacts the health of our communities. To effectively improve public health, it is vital to devote attention and resources to promoting maternal well-being. Did you know that nearly 700 birthing persons die in the United States each year due to pregnancy-related complications, and nearly two-thirds of these deaths are preventable? [1]. To truly impact change in maternal health outcomes, we need to understand what is contributing to these numbers.

First, let’s take a step back and define maternal mortality. Maternal mortality includes deaths that occur during pregnancy, delivery, or in the year postpartum. We are not just talking about deaths that occur in the delivery room, though those are a portion of the deaths. According to a 2020 study, 17% of maternal deaths in the U.S. are occurring around the time of delivery, 31% are happening during pregnancy, and 52% are occurring up to 1 year postpartum [2]. Other factors that contribute to maternal mortality include lack of access to mental health resources, insufficient social support and networks, systemic racism, and healthcare access. We know that some of these deaths can be averted if changes are implemented at the patient, provider, facility, systems, or community levels [3]. In the work Goldbug does, we operate from the premise that one preventable maternal death is one too many.

Many people are surprised when they learn that the U.S. has the highest rate of maternal mortality among high-resource countries and that this rate has been rising over the past decade. Meanwhile, most other countries have seen declines in maternal deaths [4]. We also know that this issue is disproportionately impacting women of color. In particular, American Indian/Alaska Native and Black women are 2-4 times more likely than their White counterparts to die due to pregnancy-related complications [5, 6]. When addressing the issue of maternal mortality, it is critical that we understand these racial disparities. It is not possible to take on this issue without acknowledging the deadly consequences of implicit bias and systemic racism [7, 8]. Interventions aimed at addressing maternal health must center the voices of communities most greatly impacted, and I intend to address this issue more comprehensively in future blog posts.

As we look at this issue here at Goldbug, I believe we need to start by first determining which specific factors are contributing to these high rates of maternal mortality and then identify what we can do as a company to support birthing persons well.

To start, I want to acknowledge that safe and respectful maternal health care is a human right. To effectively respond we must invest in community-based and culturally specific care and resources. Every birthing person deserves to give birth in an environment where they feel respected, listened to, supported, and valued. We must also recognize the systemic barriers impeding many people’s access to this type of compassionate care.

Goldbug knows that mothers are not only our customer, but the heart of our families, our communities, and our future. I look forward to working with Goldbug as we advance our investment in this important issue. It matters a great deal to us and to the mothers we care about.

[1]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Maternal Mortality.

[2] Declereq, E., and Zephyrin, L. (December 2020). Maternal Mortality in the United States: A Primer. Commonwealth Fund

[3] Barden, L. (October 2017). Understanding Maternal Deaths in Colorado: An Analysis of Mortality from 2008 to 2013. Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment.

[4] World Health Organization. Maternal Morality.

[5] Petersen EE, Davis NL, Goodman D, et al. Racial/ethnic disparities in pregnancy-related deaths — United States, 2007–2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2019;68:762–765.

[6] Petersen EE, Davis NL, Goodman D, Cox S, Mayes N, Johnston E, Syverson C, Seed K, Shapiro-Mendoza CK, Callaghan WM, Barfield W. Vital signs: Pregnancy-related deaths, United States, 2011–2015, and strategies for prevention, 13 states, 2013–2017. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2019;68:423–429.

[7] Bailey ZD, Krieger N, Agénor M, Graves J, Linos N, Bassett MT. Structural racism and health inequities in the USA: evidence and interventions. Lancet. 2017;389(10077):1453-1463. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(17)30569-X

[8] Howell EA. Reducing disparities in severe maternal morbidity and mortality. Clin Obstet Gynecol 2018;61:387–99.