Addressing Maternal Health Equity: Lessons Learned during the COVID 19 Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has forced maternity care providers to reconsider how they deliver prenatal, delivery, and postpartum care. The imperative of social distancing to slow the spread of the virus has led to some changes in care delivery that were almost immediately recognized as detrimental and likely exacerbating existing racial and ethnic inequities, such as having to see a new or unfamiliar provider, keeping partners and loved ones out of the delivery room, and separating infants and mothers at birth.

But other changes made in response to the pandemic could positively affect birthing persons and may ultimately lead to more equitable outcomes. We have observed reduced hospitalizations, fewer unnecessary inductions of labor, increased birth center and home births, increased maternal support services (from doulas, for example), and dramatically increased use of telehealth for prenatal and postpartum care. Such shifts appear to replace low-value interventions that have questionable benefits with care practices that have a stronger evidence base and reduce pregnant and parenting peoples’ risk.

With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Urban Institute researchers have been tracking the field to stay up-to-date on new and emerging practices and policies being implemented because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve also conducted interviews with obstetric providers, frontline health workers, community-based organizations and advocates, and other stakeholders focused on the problem of maternal health inequity to explore the emergence of noteworthy policies and initiatives designed to facilitate or improve coverage, access, and quality of care for mothers, children, and families.

Publications:
The Pandemic Has Increased Demand for Data and Accountability to Decrease Maternal Health Inequity
Improving Patient and Provider Experiences to Advance Maternal Health Equity
Maternal Telehealth Has Expanded Dramatically during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Maternity Care Financing: Challenges and Opportunities Highlighted by the COVID-19 Pandemic

Blog posts:
Three Ways COVID-19 is Further Jeopardizing Black Maternal Health
Enhanced Medicaid Support for Out-of-Hospital Births Could Protect Moms and Babies and Reduce Hospital Strain
Prenatal Care from Midwives May Lead to Healthier Babies, Healthier Moms

Events:
Addressing Maternal Health Inequity during the COVID-19 Pandemic