Maternal Mortality Among Black Women
Black women face disproportionately high rates of death during childbirth or pregnancy. Institutionalized racism and income inequality have created barriers that made accessing necessary medical care during pregnancy challenging for Black women. Income inequality, mistrust of the healthcare system, and issues within it have contributed to increased risk of pregnancy complications and death.
Systemic barriers leading to income inequality is evident when observing maternal mortality rates among Black women. Low wages often lead to women being unable to adequately support themselves throughout their pregnancy. Consequently, many are forced to shift the focus away to other essential needs such as housing and food. These income inequalities can be seen through the lessened likelihood of having insurance. Women with underprivileged socioeconomic status are more likely to be limited to lower-quality care. Due to this, there is a higher chance of Black women having preventable diseases which impact maternal and infant health. With a lower socioeconomic status, Black women have a harder time accessing reproductive healthcare products needed to prevent unwanted pregnancies. There is typically a lack of access to good contraceptive care and counseling. Due to lack of access or increased cost, Black women tend to have trouble navigating this area.
Flaws within the healthcare system have contributed to these maternal racial disparities. Racism is embedded in the United States and its healthcare system. The combination of implicit bias and structural racism has created a sense of mistrust in the healthcare system. The Harvard Public Health Magazine writes, “there is a very fine line between medical intuition and unconscious bias.” Healthcare workers’ bias and stereotyping can impact the level of care provided and determine the course of action throughout a woman’s pregnancy. Many Black women have expressed concerns about the dismissal of symptoms and other issues that are being experienced.
In order to make effective change, it is crucial to begin conversations about the racial disparities in pregnancies and spread awareness on this issue to recognize the depths of this crisis. Engaging in national conversations about the inequalities within the healthcare system is a vital starting point to drive change.
“Black Women’s Maternal Health: A Multifaceted Approach to Addressing Persistent and Dire Health Disparities.” National Partnership for Women & Families, Apr. 2018, www.nationalpartnership.org/our-work/health/reports/black-womens-maternal-health.html.
“NIH to Fund Research of Racial Disparities in Pregnancy-Related Complications and Deaths.” National Institutes of Health, 17 Nov. 2020, www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-fund-research-racial-disparities-pregnancy-related-complications-deaths.
American Heart Association News. “Why Are Black Women at Such High Risk of Dying from Pregnancy Complications?” Heart.Org, American Heart Association, 20 Feb. 2019, www.heart.org/en/news/2019/02/20/why-are-black-women-at-such-high-risk-of-dying-from-pregnancy-complications.
“The Impact of Institutional Racism on Maternal and Child Health.” National Institute for Children’s Health Quality, www.nichq.org/insight/impact-institutional-racism-maternal-and-child-health. Accessed 7 June 2021.
“Racial and Ethnic Disparities Continue in Pregnancy-Related Deaths.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6 Sept. 2019, www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2019/p0905-racial-ethnic-disparities-pregnancy-deaths.html
Roeder, Amy. “America Is Failing Its Black Mothers.” Harvard Public Health Magazine of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, The President and Fellows of Harvard College, 2020, www.hsph.harvard.edu/magazine/magazine_article/america-is-failing-its-black-mothers.