We’d like to believe that stats on tragedies like pregnancy-related deaths of women only improve over time, given advancements in healthcare and technology. But according to recent research from Merck for Mothers, a $500 million initiative from the pharmaceutical company aimed at improving maternal health, such is not the case when it comes to women in the United States.
Merck for Mothers found that about 30 years ago, women in the U.S. had a better chance of surviving pregnancy-related problems than their own daughters do today. That’s put in sharp relief in a film that travels backwards from a young pregnant woman’s struggles in the maternity ward. Toggling between the harrowing and the hopeful, it opens as the woman's mother tends to her with concern, smoothing her hair back as she cries in pain. Signs suggest that these aren’t simply typical birthing pains but rather, that the mom-to-be might be in real danger.
From there, we see the woman and her husband’s anticipation around the coming baby, when she revealed the pregnancy to her mom, and when she fell in love. The clock turns back even further to when she was just a child, opening birthday presents and exploring the world. It all comes full circle back in the birthing room, but this time, with the elder mother preparing to give birth, surrounded by a team of nurses and doctors.
“An American mother in 1990 had a better chance of surviving childbirth than her own daughter does today,” a voiceover reads. According to research from Merck for Mothers, the U.S. is one of the only high-income countries where maternal mortality is rising. Moreover, there are racial disparities in the outcomes of childbirth, and black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth complications than white women.
Matter Unlimited and directing collective Whitelist were behind the film. It aims to create awareness for Merck for Mothers’ Safer Childbirth Cities initiative that seeks to eradicate disparities iand improve maternal health. The campaign also includes a dedicated website featuring more stats and information on what the company is doing to help improve mothers’ health.