Pregnant women, mothers in South more vulnerable to poor health, study finds

Around the South


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Pregnant women and mothers in the South — and in some pockets of North Carolina — are more vulnerable to poor health than in other regions of the U.S., a study found.

The Maternal Vulnerability Index produced by public health think tank Surgo Ventures ranks states and counties across the country according to how vulnerable women there are to poor pregnancy outcomes, with higher scores worse than lower ones.

Billed as the first data tool of its kind that reaches the county level, the study weighs 43 indicators that cover six factors: Reproductive healthcare, physical health, mental health and substance abuse, general healthcare, socioeconomic determinants and physical environment.


North Carolina’s score of 76 is considered high with exceptionally high scores in physical health (88) and general healthcare (80). But its overall score is lower than that of neighboring South Carolina (92).

At the county level, some counties in the northeastern corner of North Carolina and along the South Carolina border received some of the highest scores. 

Montgomery and Robeson counties each received a 91 with socioeconomic factors pushing both of their scores higher.

Meanwhile, Wake (12) and Orange (20) counties both received low scores. 

It also finds Black and Native American women of reproductive age are more likely to live in conditions that don’t correspond with good maternal health.

“When it comes to a mother’s health and survival, the United States fares worst among high-income countries, and what’s been even less carefully explored is the degree to which a woman’s environment contributes to her risk of pregnancy-related death or other poor health outcomes,” said Dr. Sema K. Sgaier, Surgo’s co-founder and an affiliate assistant professor of global health at the University of Washington.

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