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What is Going On With Black Maternity Rates?

June 1, 2019

June 1, 2019

In the United States, pregnant Black women and their newborn babies are at risk of dying in hospitals and shortly after. “In the United States, Black women are three to four times more likely to die of a pregnancy-related death than white women, and recent studies suggest that up to half of all maternal deaths may be preventable (ChildTrends). 

New studies show that it is mostly due to racism, also known as implicit bias. To sum it up, doctors don’t take Black women seriously when they tell them that something is wrong. Low birth weight due to stress from racism and sexism is also suspected as a cause. Doctors just don’t believe the pain-levels of Black women and will subsequently prescribe inaccurate treatment. Black mothers, especially educated ones, complaints are being ignored. Combine racism with low-quality health care and we have a major problem for Black pregnant mothers and their babies.

Charles Johnson, IV lost his wife, Kira right after she delivered her second child. She bled internally and died of shock after being ignored for 10 hours, even though her husband repeatedly pleaded for help. He was told she wasn’t a priority.

“Not only does the black-white disparity for infant mortality exist at all educational levels, but it is also greatest for Black mothers who earn a master’s degree or higher. Further, the infant mortality rate (IMR) is highest for black women with a doctorate or professional degree.”

“People tend to overlook the fact that racial discrimination has played a major role in the IMR gap between white and Black infants. Particularly for Black women, despite age, educational attainment, and socioeconomic status, the exposure to racial inequities and injustices throughout their life directly impact their birth outcome,” said Keisha L. Bentley-Edwards, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at Duke University.

In addition, there is a common perception that racial disparities in IMR are driven primarily by risky behaviors such as drinking alcohol, using illicit drugs, and smoking cigarettes. However, the best available evidence does not support this assertion and illustrates that systemic barriers to positive birth outcomes warrant further investigation.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) says expectant mothers should talk with their obstetrician and physician anesthesiologist to develop a plan that ensures the safest pregnancy, childbirth, and recovery.

Express your concerns: Speak up and speak up loudly. If you think something is wrong get the attention of anyone that you can. Serena Williams did this after she delivered her child and developed a blood clot in her lungs. Because she had this condition before, she knew exactly what if felt like and went to the front desk where she demanded treatment. Luckily, they listened.

Consider a home birth: The rate of home births are rising among Black women because of the one-on-one care, the affordability, convenience, and comfort of being in your own home surrounded by family.

Johnson, who is the son of television’s Judge Glenda Hatchet, fought to make a difference for new mothers so they will not experience biased neglect. He worked to pass the Preventing Maternal Deaths Acts, which was recently signed into law. This initiative helps protect mothers by improving the quality of care and training for providers.

 For more information about pain management during labor, including a downloadable birth plan, visit

May 2019

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