Black Maternal Health Week, April 11-17, was established to raise awareness about the alarming rate at which Black mothers face life-threatening experiences while pregnant. At a time where mothers are dying in delivery rooms and suffer from negligence by the healthcare providers they’re supposed to trust, we can no longer afford to let these issues go unaddressed.
According to the National Institute Of Health, “national severe maternal morbidity (SMM) rates have nearly doubled over the past decade, and the incidence of SMM was 166% higher for Black women than White women from 2012 to 2015.”
That is just one of many frightening facts about Black maternal health that makes this week so necessary. Once you understand just how at risk Black mothers are based on various factors, it’s hard to turn a blind eye.
These are five reasons Black Maternal Health week matters now more than ever.
Black Women Are More Likely To Die During Childbirth
Statistics show that Black women are three to four times more likely to experience a pregnancy-related death than white women. What's worse is the CDC
claims three out of five of pregnancy-related deaths could have been prevented. In her op-ed for ESSENCE
, Senator Kamala Harris explained how dire of an issue this is. "Unfortunately, despite decades of progress, roughly 700 women continue to die each year from pregnancy or delivery complications in the United States, making it one of only thirteen countries where maternal mortality rates have worsened over the last 25 years," she says.
Underlying Health Conditions Make Pregnancy More Risky
According to the CDC
, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease are two of the leading causes of maternal death. African-Americans are at an increased risk for these conditions, which have a dangerous effect on pregnancy. Black women often develop preeclampsia (a dangerous rise in high blood pressure in pregnant women) and therefore have an approximately 1.7-fold higher risk
of dying from cardiovascular disease later in life.
Black Women Are Mistreated By The Healthcare System
Data shows that Black women aren't often believed when they say they're in pain, and much of that is due to discrimination and bias in the health care industry. A report from the Institute of Medicine
found that Black Americans receive less quality healthcare than whites for nearly every disease there is, and that includes prenatal care.
The Black Infant Mortality Rate Keeps Going Up
Not only are Black mothers at risk while giving birth...so are our children. Black infants in America are twice as likely to die before their first birth as white infants. Information provided by the CDC
says well educated, middle-class Black mothers are more likely to lose their babies than poor white mothers without a high school diploma.
Black Women Receive Less Help For Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is debilitating and affects roughly 10%–20% of women who give birth. Black moms, however, are less likely to get the help they need. A study by the National Institute Of Health
found that 8% of white women received treatment for their postpartum depression compared to 4% of Black women.