Starting the Journey of Motherhood Off Right


Merck for Mothers and Baltimore Healthy Start Make Resources Available to New Moms in Need

Each year, approximately 52,000 women experience a life-threatening medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth – not in a third-world country that lacks access to medical care, but instead, right here in the United States. In fact, while global statistics show a steady decline in maternal mortality rates over the past two decades, the U.S. is the only country in the industrialized world reporting rates on the rise.

Merck for Mothers is on a mission to change that. This 10 year, $500 million-dollar initiative strives to not only increase access to quality prenatal, postpartum and primary care for women but also apply Merck’s scientific and business expertise to reduce maternal mortality around the world. Women with high-risk health conditions such as obesity, diabetes or hypertension, as well as those who represent under-served populations where rates of maternal death and complications are especially high, are targeted. According to Priya Agrawal, M.D. executive director of Merck for Mothers, the majority of maternal deaths that occur in the U.S. are preventable.

“No woman should die bringing life into this world,” she said. “Merck for Mothers is working very hard to get the right care to the right women at the right time, every time. We are reviewing data to better understand why maternal deaths are occurring. A key goal is to standardize care protocols and create new systems to connect high-risk women to care providers before, during and after pregnancy, which may decrease the occurrence rate of preventable conditions.”

Merck for Mothers has established partnerships with organizations across the country that share a common mission. Locally, they are collaborating with Baltimore Healthy Start, a 22-year-old nonprofit that focuses on the reduction of infant mortality rates, with primary emphasis on the African American and Latin American populations. Baltimore Healthy Start offers a number of facilities, programs and resources, all geared toward improving the health of mother-to-be or new mother, and baby.

“Our primary focus is on reducing infant mortality rates, and to do that, we have to also take a look at the health of the mothers and how this relates,” said Alma Roberts, CEO of Baltimore Healthy Start. “We provide food pantries and laundry facilities to meet the basic needs of new moms and their babies, but there is so much more for them to take advantage of. We offer yoga and stress reduction courses, parenting classes and breastfeeding guidance. Women can come to us for help in enrolling in the Affordable Care Act. We can arrange transportation for those who need help getting to and from doctor’s appointments. We bring these women out of isolation and help them develop a life plan. We give them hope.”

Together, as Merck for Mothers and Baltimore Healthy Start work to educate patients and physicians about the leading causes of infant and maternal mortality, both organizations stress that despite their dual focus on the under-served populations, maternal health complications can happen to women of all ages, races and socio-economic statuses.

“Physicians are also regular members of the public, that people want to listen to,” said Dr. Agrawal. “They need to know and understand these statistics, as they can really impact our efforts positively by encouraging their patients to take good care of themselves before and during pregnancy. This is about empowering women to be active participants in their own care.”

Physicians in Maryland who are caring for high-risk patients or those who require social support or access to health and wellness programs to stay on track before, during and after pregnancy are encouraged to send referrals to Baltimore Healthy Start by calling 410-396-7318. More information is also available by visiting

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