Ohio Maternal and Infant Mortality

Did you know that 864 Ohio infants died before their first birthday in 2020?

Did you know that 326 of those infants were Black? That means Black infants accounted for more than 1/3 of all infant deaths in Ohio.

The overall rate of infant mortality in Ohio in 2020 was 6.7. White infants had a mortality rate of 5.1 per 1,000 live births, American Indian and Alaska Natives had a rate of 4.1 per 1,000 live births, Hispanic deaths were 5.1 per 1,000 births and Black infants died at a rate of 13.6 per 1,000 live births; that is three times the rate of all other groups. Prematurity was a leading cause of death.

Low birth weight is common among babies who are born pre-term, and this was especially true for Black babies in Ohio. In addition to low birth weight, other factors in prematurity include nicotine use during pregnancy, maternal drug and alcohol use, infection, and maternal age; many of these factors are modifiable. Of note, 25% of infants who died in Ohio were born to mothers who reported nicotine use before pregnancy. About 20% of mothers reported use during the first trimester and 15% reported nicotine use in the last trimester. White mothers were slightly more likely to use nicotine during pregnancy than other moms.

We see similarly worrisome trends in maternal mortality rates in Ohio. The most recent data suggests that Ohio has seen an increase in pregnancy-related maternal mortality since 2008 with a current rate of 23.7 deaths per 100,000 live births. The leading causes of death for mothers and birthing people in Ohio were mental health complications, including substance use. Most of these deaths occurred in the postpartum period and about 61% of these deaths were considered preventable. It should be noted that Black women are about two and a half times more likely to die from pregnancy-related factors (29.5 deaths per 100,000 live births) than White women (11.5 deaths per 100,000 births).

Ohio infant and maternal mortality statistics are sobering, but more importantly, they are devastating to families, and communities. The data regarding causes of deaths suggests a need to address modifiable risk factors, including the use of nicotine and other drugs during pregnancy, maternal mental health, and confront biases in care. This month we encourage you to consider ways in which your organization can educate the community on these statistics and create solutions that will positively impact infant and maternal mortality rates in Ohio. One way you can positively impact the health and wellbeing of moms and birthing people in our community who use nicotine is to refer them to the Elevating New Moms Program. Please see the following link for more details: https://breathingassociation.org/services/elevating-new-moms/.

July is Black Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. We also encourage you to consider ways in which you can address inequities for Black moms and birthing people for whom many of the aforementioned disparities impact.



  1. Ohio Department of Health Infant Vitality Statistics: https://odh.ohio.gov/know-our-programs/infant-vitality
  2. Ohio Department of Health Racial Disparities Snapshot: https://odh.ohio.gov/know-our-programs/pregnancy-associated-mortality-review/reports/racial-disparities
  3. Ohio Department of Health 2020 Infant Mortality Annual report: https://odh.ohio.gov/know-our-programs/infant-and-fetal-mortality/reports/reports