Why Black Mothers Are Dying After Birth
Black women experience childbirth deaths at up to four times the rate of white women. The fatalities are the result of higher rates of preeclampsia, eclampsia, abruptio placentae, postpartum hemorrhages, and placenta previa. These preventable conditions place black women at unnecessary risk of suffering a childbirth fatality or causing severe birth injuries to infants.
Disparity and Death Rate
Black women experience deaths during childbirth at a rate of 44 per 100,000 live births. By comparison, the rate for white women is 13, per 100,000 live births, and 14 per 100,000 for other races. The high rate of childbirth deaths within the black community is one of the primary reasons that the childbirth fatality rate in the US remains higher than other industrialized nations. In fact, black women are 49% more likely than white women to deliver a premature birth which increases both the mother’s risk and the infant’s risk of dying.
Health History and Discrimination
There are several factors that can increase a woman’s risk of suffering a death during childbirth. Among these are the individual’s health history. Lack of access to quality care is a significant contributor to an individual’s overall health. Over time, failure to treat minor medical conditions can affect organ function, blood sugar levels, etc. This can create multiple underlying conditions including hypertension and diabetes that increase the risk of suffering a fatality.
Overt and subconscious discrimination is another factor that can come into play when treating black patients. Preconceived notions about an individual’s lifestyle and overall health can cause a physician to overlook medical conditions or improperly assume an individual’s health status. This can lead to negligent, substandard care that can place the mother and child in danger.
Lack of Postpartum Care
One of the most significant reasons black women have higher fatality rates due to childbirth is because of lack of access to postpartum care. This care monitors the health of the mother as her body recovers from the pregnancy. Prompt and proper treatment is crucial as blood clots and other potentially life-threatening conditions can occur during this period. In many cases, black women lack medical coverage that provides proper treatment or do not have the financial ability to schedule and make it to appointments that could save their lives.