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Michigan’s Infant and Maternal Mortality Rates are High: Information and education are the keys to bringing them down

Dr. Michael Genord, MD, MBA
HAP Chief Executive Officer and President, HAP CareSource

Pregnancy can be a joyous time, but that doesn’t make it predictable. In October 2023, a report from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Southeast Michigan Perinatal Quality Improvement Coalition found that maternal and infant mortality rates in Michigan are improving, but high compared to other states. The 2021 infant mortality rate stood at 6.2 deaths per 1,000 births.*  That’s down a bit from 2020, but infant mortality has not significantly improved over the past decade. 

Things aren’t any better when it comes to mortality rates for mothers. Michigan ranks 23rd nationally for maternal mortality. Things are even more bleak for Black mothers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Detroit’s rates for Black maternal mortality are three times the national average. We’ve come to believe that pregnancy is routine, yet the risk to health can be significant. And these women leave behind partners, parents and most heartbreaking, other children.

Healthcare professionals know these tragedies can be significantly reduced. In fact, data from several studies concluded that somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of deaths were found to be preventable. There are proven interventions that lower the risk for moms and babies to keep families whole. That starts with sensitive, consistent prenatal care—ideally beginning in the first trimester. Regular visits with a physician help protect mom’s health and pregnancy and allow medical professionals to flag symptoms of possible a behavioral health diagnosis that could present challenges at or after delivery, prepping families for the big change ahead. 

Expectant mothers have a lot to prepare for in the trimesters of pregnancy, and one idea gaining traction among medical professionals to make that easier is formally extending pregnancy care through a fourth trimester. A fourth trimester, generally defined as birth through 1 year, gives families more time to make sure mom and baby are healthy, adjusting and supported. It provides a terrific opportunity to review health care plans and create new health habits across the family, evaluate how this enormous change impacts everyone in the household and make sure the family and the new baby are taken care of.

After the delivery, the fourth trimester is a critical period where access to healthcare can make a big difference in driving positive outcomes. According to the Perinatal Quality Improvement Coalition report referenced above there are numerous reasons pregnant women are unable to access prenatal care. When women are fully informed of the benefits that prenatal care offers to protect their health and help ensure a good pregnancy outcome, most opt for it. Real-world challenges including financial or insurance burdens, inflexible work schedules, the nationwide childcare shortage and inadequate public transportation options, all factor into an expectant or new mother’s ability to access consistent care.

Our challenge is to reach expectant mothers with solutions that work for them. Insurance providers, like HAP, offer financial incentives to encourage women to enter and maintain prenatal care. A visit to a health care provider in the first trimester will earn some members a $75 reward from HAP. We also offer a maternity support program connecting mothers to important education resources, addressing the biggest challenges.

That’s why outreach and advocacy that brings the whole family’s health into focus, during what can be a stressful adjustment, is critical. There is a range of available solutions and programs designed to eliminate barriers to pre and postnatal care. From home-based visits from a community health worker—which can be especially helpful in rural communities—to more comprehensive awareness campaigns featuring community clinics that assess hearing, vision, vaccination status and developmental milestones before baby’s first birthday. In the first months, a healthcare professional can screen for post-partum depression, assist with breast feeding and bonding and provide suggestions for building positive relationships with the family.

Michigan can do better. Helping families through life transitions is good for families and communities and good for managing health care costs. HAP is committed to supporting innovative programs that give Michigander mothers and babies a healthy start.

We offer a comprehensive suite of women's health programs in partnership with ProgenyHealth. Besides consulting your doctor, expectant mothers can access wellness benefits, including maternity education, and receive assistance scheduling doctor's appointments to ensure optimal support and care throughout pregnancy. You can learn more about our programs by visiting

Categories: Get Involved , Get Healthy