The well-being of mothers, infants, and children is an important factor in the health of the next generation and can help predict future public health challenges for families, communities, and the medical care system. Addressing the needs of women before, during, and after pregnancy helps to improve not only their health but also their children’s health.

  • Birth defects are one of the leading causes of infant deaths, accounting for more than 20% of all infant deaths. Some of these birth defects can be prevented and, with proper prenatal care, many can be detected before birth, enabling better care during and after birth.

  • Infants born to obese women are twice as likely to be obese and to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

  • Newborn health screenings and wellness visits can detect and sometimes prevent diseases and serious health disorders, such as sickle cell disease or hearing loss, that can have profound effects on a child’s health throughout his or her lifetime.

  • Scheduled immunizations can protect infants and children from 14 vaccine-preventable diseases, including chickenpox, measles, and mumps. Scheduled immunizations are especially important for children age 2 and younger, who are at the highest risk for infectious diseases like pneumonia, sepsis, and meningitis.

  • 1 in 5 women are obese at the beginning of their pregnancy, placing them at increased risk of complications, including high blood pressure and diabetes, during pregnancy.

  • Approximately 12% of pregnant women in the United States smoke during pregnancy, and another 12% of pregnant women in the United States have consumed alcohol in the past 30 days. These behaviors not only negatively affect women’s health and safety, but significantly increase their infants’ risk of serious health problems—including premature birth and severe birth defects—and death.

  • Of women who could get pregnant, 69% do not take recommended folic acid supplements, 31% are obese, and about 3% take prescription or over-the-counter drugs that are known to cause birth defects.

  • Approximately 1 in 10 women are depressed during any trimester of pregnancy, or any month within the first year after delivery. Depression can inhibit a woman’s ability to perform daily activities, bond with her infant, and relate to her family.



Maternal, Infant, and Child Health