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.
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.)
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,…