The Black Maternal Health Care Crisis In America

Updated: Sep 17, 2021

How black pregnant women's fight for equality alerts the nation of an issue that has been steadily rising since the '90s





Maternal Mortality

The United States has prided itself on being “the land of the free” and a safe haven for individuals of all ethnic backgrounds. We have seen the US “defending” human rights around the world for many years. So why are Black mothers being overlooked for not receiving the care they need while being pregnant and when giving birth?


The US has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed countries


Sixty percent of maternal deaths are preventable, but continues to increase in the United States.

How is it that other high-income countries have a much lower maternal death rate than the United States, better yet, why are we not learning from these countries to lower our pregnancy related death rate?



What does maternal mortality mean?


First let's get into exactly what is meant by maternal mortality. In the United States there are three commonly used measures of maternal deaths.

  • Pregnancy-associated death: includes death while pregnant or within one year of the end of pregnancy.

  • Pregnancy-related death: death while pregnant or within one year of the end of pregnancy from pregnancy complications, events initiated during pregnancy, or the aggravation of unrelated conditions by physiological effects of pregnancy.

  • Maternal mortality: death while pregnant or within 42 days of the end of pregnancy.


Why is it important to raise awareness of the condition of Black maternal health?


The United States has prided itself on being “the land of the free” and a safe haven for individuals of all ethnic backgrounds. We have seen the US “defending” human rights around the world for many years. So why are Black mothers being overlooked for not receiving the care they need while being pregnant and when giving birth?


We believe that every person has the right to receive the health care they need no matter what their ethnic background is. We all have the right to be healthy and to live a life of the same quality. This is why we are advocating for the Black mothers who are dying when giving birth even in today’s equipped hospitals and with access to high-quality health care.

Recent studies have revealed that even with the United Nations Millennium Development Goal put in place to reduce maternal mortality by 75% by 2015, the estimated maternal mortality rate for 48 States and Washington DC has increased from 2000 to 2014 by 26.6%.

Moreover, it is evidenced that black women are dying 3 to 4 times more than white women regardless of their income or education level. Furthermore, according to the information published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2016, black babies are dying 2.3 times more than white babies. If we look back into history, it is estimated that the mortality rate of black babies was only 1.6 times higher than that of white children in 1850. This figure proves that the situation is getting worse despite having access to nowadays high quality health care system.

So what is the cause of death in Black mothers and their children?

Why are they dying more often than their white counterparts? Since the 1990s, research on maternal and infant death disparities has been carried out with findings that racism is one of the underlying issues having a bad effect on the mental and physical health of Black mothers. This together with the racial discrimination practiced by medical institutions is leaving Black mothers helpless at the most crucial and sensitive time of their lives - pregnancy.

For example, the Black Mamas Matter Alliance noted that Black mothers have self-reported that their painful symptoms are being ignored or underestimated by doctors stating that such conditions are normal during prenatal or postpartum period. These Black women are then leaving hospitals without getting the help they need which very often leads to death. However, it is reported by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that in most cases such death can be prevented by a timely intervention of a healthcare provider.

What can we do to decrease the mortality rate of Black women and children?

This concerning situation requires changes at both the institutional and societal level. It is necessary to adopt policies that will prevent this from happening. Medical staff should for example follow strict guidelines when providing healthcare to patients which includes enforcing discrimination against patients of different skin color. Healthcare institutions could also work alongside specialists on racism to learn how racial discrimination can be prevented on the side of doctors.

Fortunately, the Biden-Harris Administration has announced during the Black Maternal Health Week on 13 April 2021 the first actions to be taken to help solve the Black Maternal Health Crisis. One of the solutions offered is the establishment of the White House Gender Policy Council which will amongst others strive for gender equality and increased access to quality health care.


Such support from the Federal Government is crucial. However, implementation of these actions into practice will take some time and we will see their results only in the future. But what can be done now to protect our black mothers?


The Medical News Today published an article in June 2021 offering the following suggestions:


  1. Select a doctor who respects other cultures.

  2. Educate yourself about the serious health conditions you might experience during the prenatal and postpartum period and learn to recognize their symptoms (such as preeclampsia - rise in blood pressure and swelling and postpartum bleeding called hemorrhage).

  3. If you feel that your doctor is not taking your symptoms seriously, seek help from a different healthcare provider.

  4. If your financial situation does not allow you to get high-quality prenatal and postpartum care, try to get financial help from the two governmental programmes - Medicare and Medicaid.

  5. Ask your doctor to keep written records related to your health conditions especially if the doctor is ignoring your symptoms or refuses to provide you with the treatment you believe you need.

  6. Ask your doctor to record your visits which might increase the accountability of your practitioner.

These recommendations might be helpful, but we believe that racial discrimination has to be stopped at the entire society level and The MomBAE Movement Inc. will do everything possible to bring awareness to this issue.




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