For Black mothers and soon-to-be moms, the rates of mortality in giving birth are alarmingly high.
There’s a nationwide crisis that is affecting African-American mothers, who are three to four times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than White women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Black babies are also suffering: they are more than twice as likely to die as White infants.
Simply put, a war has been waged on Black mothers, noted a timely and poignant The New York Times report. This is a battle that especially can’t be ignored during the first-ever Black Maternal Health Week (April 11 – 17).
Here are the most important facts that people should know:
Racism Is A Primary Cause Of Maternal Deaths And Infant Mortality
The societal and systemic racism faced by Black women is like a dark cloud over their lives. This racism creates a toxic physiological stress that causes a number of harmful conditions for expectant mothers, including pre-eclampsia, a type of hypertension (high blood pressure) that leads to high infant and maternal death rates. Pre-eclampsia and eclampsia (seizures due to pre-eclampsia) are 60 percent more common in Black women, according to a Health and Human Services Department report.
This stress, created by frequent discrimination and the lived experience of being Black, can trigger the “premature deterioration” of a Black women’s body, Dr. Arline Geronimus, a professor in the department of health behavior and health education at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, said. Geronimus referred to this process as “weathering” in her formative study about Black women and infants in the journal Ethnicity and Disease.
Racial Bias In The Health Care System Also Plays A Major Role In Mortality
Studies and scholarly articles have confronted the existence of racial bias in health care. This bias takes shape in a number of ways: a doctor’s dismissal of an expectant mother’s serious health concerns or symptoms, a misdiagnosis of a condition, a pressure to rush through a doctor’s visit and more. Also, an expectant mother, especially a teenager, may be publicly shamed or blamed for several things, including being poor, unmarried or less educated—and it may impact the level of health care and treatment they receive.
A lot Of Infant And Pregnancy-Related Deaths Are Preventable
An estimated 700 to 900 maternal deaths happen in the U.S. each year, but more than 50,000 are potentially preventable near-deaths happen as well, the CDC reported.
Maternal Deaths Are Considered By Many To Be An International Human Rights Issue
Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, founder and president of the National Birth Equity Collaborative and committee member of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, recently urged that maternal mortality is treated as a human rights issue during a speech to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Birth Doulas Have Helped To Curb Death Rates
There is “evidence [that] suggests, in addition to regular nursing care, continuous one-to-one emotional support provided by support personnel, such as a doula, is associated with improved outcomes for women in labor,” a statement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said last year.
Folks wonder when the watershed moment will happen that reverses the current status quo for Black mothers and infants. There are many women’s rights activists and advocates fighting for lives, fighting so that those lives not longer hang in the balance. These activists have not forgetten the success stories of many Black mamas and babies, hoping and pushing for healthier pregnancies and deliveries.