Black Mothers are Dying and that Hurts Black Babies

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By Dr. Joia Crear-Perry

The number of Black Women dying in childbirth continues to rise — 137% in 10 years according to the CDC — and we don’t know why.

The medical community focuses on the most common diagnoses at time of death for these women, the list which includes the following: embolism, obstetric hemorrhage, and preeclampsia. Medical professionals observe the health of the mother prior to pregnancy and at the time of delivery, with correlations being made to obesity, hypertension, and previous cesarean sections.

Public health officials concentrate on the social determinants of health such as poverty, access to care, and racism. A 2010 report by Amnesty International on maternal mortality in the U.S. showed African-American women are nearly four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than White women. These rates and disparities have not improved in more than 20 years.

In 2014, Congress introduced legislation to track deaths during childbirth nationwide through Maternal Mortality Reviews, similar to Fetal Mortality Review Panels in states. This legislation did not make it out of Committee.

The impact of Black mothers dying in childbirth cannot be measured. Uplifting the importance of the mother to children the child may spur investigation into the root causes for Black mothers dying.