WTEP advocates for increased U.S. and global resources, advances sound public policy proposals to help the most vulnerable moms, and works to advance evidence-based health information to support, educate, and empower moms in needs everywhere.

Legislation Work

Representative Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) introduced a bipartisan resolution recognizing July 21st as Bump Day. She is joined in this effort by Representatives Michael McCaul (R-TX), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA). Bump Day is a global advocacy day for maternal health, and Rep. Houlahan’s resolution not only commemorates this day but also reaffirms the United States’ leadership to end preventable maternal deaths in the United States and across the globe.

“Every mom — no matter where she lives, no matter the color of her skin, or her ability to pay — deserves the maternal healthcare she needs to deliver a healthy pregnancy, safe birth and healthy future to herself and her baby,” said Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect When You’re Expecting and founder of the What to Expect Project. “Yet around the world, more than 800 women die of pregnancy-related complications every day.  In the U.S., where we have the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world, Black and American Indian/Alaska Native moms face a 3 times greater risk of dying from a pregnancy-related complication, and moms living in maternity care deserts, both rural and urban, also face disproportionately higher risk. More than 2/3 of all maternal deaths are preventable, as are most long-term health consequences for both mother and baby. That’s heartbreaking, but it’s also unacceptable. And it’s time to stop accepting it. The health of our moms and babies isn’t a partisan issue — it’s a human issue. That’s why the What to Expect Project and I are so excited and proud to work together with Republicans and Democrats on both chambers in support of the #BumpDay Congressional Resolution — dedicated to raising awareness about and inspiring action to address the urgent need for better, more equitable, more respectful and responsive care for every mom, everywhere. No exceptions, no disparities. We’re grateful Representative Chrissy Houlahan for leading the introduction of the #BumpDay congressional resolution and to Representatives Michael McCaul, Jaime Herrera Beutler and Lucille Roybal-Allard for their resolute support of maternal health on #BumpDay, July 21st and every day. Together, we can make sure that every mom gets the respectful, responsive, equitable quality care she and her baby need and deserve.”

Read more about the Bipartisan Resolution Recognizing Bump Day here.

“There is no better investment in our collective future than maternal health — delivering the respectful, responsive, comprehensive continuum of care every mom needs to deliver a healthy beginning and a healthier future for herself and the baby she loves. I’ve always said that doulas are the missing link in that care —a cost-effective, easily scalable, family-focused, community-centered source of the physical and emotional support, information, and empowerment that every mom, but especially our most vulnerable moms, deserve. No mom should stand alone, and no mom should deliver unsupported. With a doula by her side, no mom has to. We are grateful to Senators Durbin and Collins and to Representative Moore for their leadership, tireless efforts and commitment as champions of maternal health and champions of doulas.” – Heidi Murkoff, founder of the What to Expect Project and author of What to Expect When You’re Expecting

Read more about the Bipartisan Resolution Recognizing Important Work Of Doulas here.

Just in Time for Mother’s Day, Houlahan Introduces Military Moms Matter Act Historic bill would transform the armed forces into a more supportive organization for new mothers, increasing U.S. military readiness

Pregnancy and becoming a parent is challenging enough under any circumstances, but for military moms – spouses or active duty service members – serving far from family, friends and their network of support, it’s exponentially harder,” said Heidi Murkoff, founder of the What to Expect Project and author of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. “That’s why the What to Expect Project and I are proud to endorse the Military Moms Matter Act, a critical piece of legislation that removes barriers to essential maternal health care, mental health care and supportive postpartum care that every mom deserves – especially when she’s doing the heavy lifting of serving our country along with the even heavier lift of pregnancy, birthing and parenting. Military moms are strong, no doubt, but that doesn’t mean that they should have to “soldier up” without help, whether it’s help for postpartum anxiety or depression or PTSD, help recovering from the physical toll taken by pregnancy and childbirth or help getting the time they and their partners need to bond as a family. This is ‘support for our troops’ that puts action behind the bumper sticker to offer our amazing military moms and families the support they need, and that we owe them –  making their lives safer, happier and less stressful. We’re so grateful to Representative Houlahan for introducing the Military Moms Matter Act and for her passionate leadership and tireless efforts and commitment behalf of our military moms and families.”

Read more about the Military Moms Matter Act here.

“Being a mom is always hard, but this has been an especially difficult year for moms everywhere, particularly for military moms. The challenges for military moms — the pressure they feel to be strong no matter what, the anxiety and depression they’re more likely to face, their need for more support before, during and after childbirth — are nothing new. But the unique struggles of moms who serve their country – and to be clear, all military moms serve, whether they’re active duty or spouses – have intensified exponentially during the pandemic, which has left them feeling more isolated than ever. I know this, because I’ve had the honor of meeting, speaking to, and hugging thousands of military moms around the world – they’ve become not only part of my life and my family, but my greatest source of inspiration.

That’s why I am so encouraged that this year’s National Defense Authorization Act has been passed into law. It’s welcome progress in supporting the families who sacrifice so much to protect our nation, offering doula and lactation support for military moms under TRICARE and studying prenatal and postpartum mental health conditions and access to care to better understand and serve the needs of members of our Armed Forces and their families. It’s time to support our military families in meaningful action, instead of empty platitudes. This is an important first step, and I’m grateful that Congress has taken it, thanks to the leadership of Senator Blumenthal, working collaboratively with Senator Gillibrand and Senator Kaine. Today is a great day, even in a tough year, for military moms.”

Heidi Murkoff, author of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” creator of WhattoExpect.com and founder of the What to Expect Project

Doulas make a difference for every delivering mom — but especially for those who face one of life’s most challenging experiences on their own, separated by thousands of miles from family and friends, and often, from their deployed partners, too. That’s why Heidi Murkoff, What to Expect creator, founder of the What to Expect Project, and long-time advocate for military families, has worked closely with Senator Richard Blumenthal and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to ensure that all pregnant active duty servicewomen and military spouses have access to the vital support offered by a birth doula. The TRICARE Coverage for Doula Support Act introduced by Senators Blumenthal and Gillibrand, will not only help military moms feel more supported, among many other benefits doulas have been shown to lower the risk of complications in a hospital birth. Investments in doula support will reduce costs and improve maternal and infant health.

The fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization bill includes a five-year pilot program to cover the services of a professional trained to provide physical and emotional support for female troops and military family members during childbirth. The program would evaluate the cost, quality of care and impact on new moms and babies of hiring a doula or lactation consultant or counselor.

Read more about the Pilot Program here.

Being pregnant and becoming a mom is challenging under the best of circumstances, but for military moms, serving far from family, friends, and their network of support, it can be far more difficult. Isolation and loneliness can take a toll on maternal mental health, increasing the risk and severity of pregnancy and postpartum mood disorders. Yet for military moms, help can be harder to ask for and harder to find. To help remove barriers to maternal mental healthcare for active duty servicewomen and spouses who are suffering from depression, anxiety disorder, or another pregnancy or postpartum mood disorder, Senator Richard Blumenthal and Senator Tim Kaine have introduced The Military Moms’ Mental Health Assessment act, working in close collaboration with Heidi Murkoff, creator of What to Expect, founder of What to Expect Project, and long-time advocate for military families.

“Every mom feels the pressure to be strong, but no mom feels that pressure more than a military mom. What I tell military moms all the time when they speak to me about depression, anxiety, isolation, rage they’re suffering from is that sometimes being strong means asking for help. But the sad reality is that far too often, military moms don’t feel they can ask for help, especially when it comes to their mental health. Whether it’s pregnancy or postpartum depression, anxiety disorder, or long-term mental health struggles exacerbated by the isolation of military life (and that pressure to be strong!), abusive relationships (also underreported due to stigma and fear of repercussions), children too closely spaced, a partner who’s distant physically due to deployments or emotionally due to his own mental health issues, the little research that has been done in the field show that military moms suffer disproportionately from maternal mental health challenges – and, also disproportionately, don’t get the care they need and deserve,” said Murkoff. “We must make it easier for all moms to access mental health services, so they can nurture themselves and their babies – but especially for military moms. Serving your country – whether you’re active duty or a spouse of a service member — shouldn’t mean sacrificing your mental health.”

Read more about the Military Moms’ Mental Health Assessment Act here.

Advocacy Updates

Over the last two decades, disparities in healthcare and a consistent record of putting maternal health last, has made the U. S. the least safe place to have a baby in the developed world. While globally, maternal mortality has fallen, it has risen in the U.S., where every year, approximately 700 to 900 women die of complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Nearly two-thirds of these deaths are preventable. Every maternal death is unthinkable, but every death that could have been prevented with the proper care should be considered unacceptable.

Many factors contribute to this, but one looms larger: race. Black moms are at the greatest risk of all – nearly three times more likely to die of complications from pregnancy and childbirth than White moms.

Black Maternal Health Week represents a vital opportunity to bring acutely needed awareness to what can only be described as a crisis of maternal mortality and morbidity. Maternal health, including preconception health, is the foundation of all public health–making solving this crisis not only a moral imperative, but also a public health imperative. Thank you, Congresswoman Adams and Senator Booker, for your leadership, tireless efforts and commitment as champions of maternal health. Read more on WTEP’s support to help advance this important congressional resolution, and to end all preventable maternal deaths:

BMHW Resolution Letter of Support

“Being a mom is always hard, but this has been an especially difficult year for moms everywhere, particularly for military moms. The challenges for military moms — the pressure they feel to be strong no matter what, the anxiety and depression they’re more likely to face, their need for more support before, during and after childbirth — are nothing new. But the unique struggles of moms who serve their country – and to be clear, all military moms serve, whether they’re active duty or spouses – have intensified exponentially during the pandemic, which has left them feeling more isolated than ever. I know this, because I’ve had the honor of meeting, speaking to, and hugging thousands of military moms around the world – they’ve become not only part of my life and my family, but my greatest source of inspiration.

That’s why I am so encouraged that this year’s National Defense Authorization Act has been passed into law. It’s welcome progress in supporting the families who sacrifice so much to protect our nation, offering doula and lactation support for military moms under TRICARE and studying prenatal and postpartum mental health conditions and access to care to better understand and serve the needs of members of our Armed Forces and their families. It’s time to support our military families in meaningful action, instead of empty platitudes. This is an important first step, and I’m grateful that Congress has taken it, thanks to the leadership of Senator Blumenthal, working collaboratively with Senator Gillibrand and Senator Kaine. Today is a great day, even in a tough year, for military moms.”

Heidi Murkoff, author of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” creator of WhattoExpect.com and founder of the What to Expect Project

Unfortunately, compassion for our moms is not always a given. But the short-term investment in maternal health care, especially for Black moms who are already at greater risk for complications, can dramatically lower health care costs when it prevents maternal morbidity, long stays in the hospital for moms and long stays in the NICU for babies, as well as long-term care for conditions that become chronic.

We know the challenges are greater than ever – but so is the urgency of our mission to ensure quality care for all moms that comes without exception and without disparities. Every mom should expect and deserves the care and support she needs to deliver a healthy start in life and a healthy future for herself and the baby she loves.

As the new administration moves towards the development of a critically-needed maternal health strategy, WTEP recommends the following policies to be prioritized within the first 100 days – all in equal importance.

WTEP Presidential Transition Recommendations

The What To Expect Project was invited to participate at the Second Annual Black Maternal Health Caucus Stakeholder Summit held online on July 27, 2020. The virtual event convened more than 100 organizations working to address the Black maternal health crisis. The Summit presented an opportunity to discuss advocacy efforts on behalf of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, legislation to address the Black maternal health crisis. The bill was introduced in March 2020 by founders and co-chairs of the Black Maternal Health Caucus U.S. Representatives Lauren Underwood (IL-14) and Alma Adams (NC-12), and by U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA).

Heidi Murkoff, founder of the What To Expect Project and author of What To Expect When You’re Expecting, delivered remarks for the virtual summit that echoed the all-too-familiar experiences of the WTE community of over 20 million expectant and new moms.

WTEP president and executive director, Annie Toro, JD, MPH represented the organization at the Summit and spoke about WTEP’s recommendations to end preventable maternal deaths.

During the week of September 15, Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser hosted the third annual National Maternal & Infant Health Summit – a keystone event planned and executed by Thrive by Five DC in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs – to build on the interest concerning these critical issues and the District’s new approach to protect the health of women, babies, and families. With the COVID-19 pandemic changing business as usual for everyone, the Summit focused significantly on the impact of the pandemic on pregnant women, moms, and babies.

The virtual Summit was a unique opportunity for various partners representing a range of stakeholders, including nonprofit organizations, health officials, and elected officials to use lessons learned from the COVID-19 response to advocate for improved delivery of perinatal care and continued investment in support for moms, babies, and their families.

The What to Expect Project joined this year’s summit as a partner. In advance of the Summit, WTEP’s Founder, Heidi Murkoff, prepared remarks for Summit participants and joined Thrive by Five DC’s Executive Director, Dr. Faith Gibson Hubbard, for an interview about WTEP’s efforts to advance maternal health, including ongoing activities and strategies to help moms during the pandemic.

Heidi’s Summit Interview

Link to Summit

There is no better investment in our collective future than maternal health.

Heidi Murkoff, Founder

Hear from WTEP’s Founder, Heidi Murkoff

Heidi OP ED, Speeches

National Maternal & Infant Health Summit Interview

youtube.com
Heidi OP ED, Speeches

Annual Black Maternal Health Caucus Stakeholder Summit Remarks

dropbox.com
Heidi OP ED, Speeches

Rickey Smiley Morning Show Bump Day Interview

mymajicdc.com
Heidi OP ED, Speeches

USO Special Delivery Celebrates 160th Event for Military Parents

uso.org
Heidi OP ED, Speeches

Why Supporting Our Troops Means Supporting Their Families

speaknowforkids.org
Heidi OP ED, Speeches

Raising awareness about maternal health worldwide on National Bump Day

thehill.com
Heidi OP ED, Speeches

This Mother’s Day, We Must Acknowledge The Negative Impacts Of The AHCA

huffpost.com
Heidi OP ED, Speeches

We Must Protect Pregnant Women From the Zika Virus

miamiherald.com
Heidi OP ED, Speeches

If Motherhood Is The Ultimate Sisterhood – Then Our Sisters Are At Risk

internationalmedicalcorps.org
Heidi OP ED, Speeches

International Medical Corps Humanitarian Award Acceptance Speech

youtube.com