Women face enough anxieties, as well as physical challenges, throughout pregnancy without having to worry about dying during or after childbirth. But in spite of our status as a progressive, first-world country with cutting edge medicine, we are failing severely in one major area--maternal health for non-white pregnant people.
Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy related causes than white women, and the numbers only get more significant with age, the CDC reports. Over age 30, black women are 4-5 times more likely to die than white women from pregnancy-related causes. C-section rates are higher, even in low risk pregnancies, for Black birthing people as well.
Some of the main causes of death included cardiomyopathy, thrombotic pulmonary embolism, an dhypertensive disorders, as well as hemorrhage. The CDC states that two main improvements need to be made: implementing standardized protocols, especially in facilities that serve “disproportionately affected communities,” and identifying and addressing implicit bias in the healthcare system. These changes are a must to improve the devastating statistic that 60% or more of the deaths could have been prevented with better, quicker, care, and increased knowledge of warning signs among patients and providers, they report.
April 11-17, 2021 is Black Maternal Health Week, and we at Tough as a Mother Tribe consider every single mother across the planet to be part of our family. We want way more than numbers and statistics for women of every race, nationality, background, income level, and family situation--we want healthy births, thriving babies and mamas, and a system that supports these outcomes equally. We’ve compiled several ways advocates are working to help lower the Black Maternal Mortality rate, and we hope you will join us in following and supporting these initiatives.
Shades of Blue
This initiative works towards “breaking cultural barriers in maternal mental health globally,” especially through the hashtag #makingshifthappentogether. They host webinars to do the important work of educating and preventing health issues and death for Black birthing populations, focus on funding sources and initiatives surrounding the topic, and more. Founder Kay Matthews from Houston, Texas, has been nationally recognized for her work towards her goal of “helping women realize that they have the ability to have a successful birth outcome and assuring that they know of the resources available in which it pertains to maternal mental health,” according to her website. Follow Shades of Blue on Instagram here.
This organization’s pillars include maternal justice, focusing on the fact that we are the only developed country with a rising, not falling, maternal mortality rate. To sign petitions, learn about legislation, and become more educated in general abou this issue, check out their website. Currently, you can hear multiple women’s birth stories that will inspire you towards action on their Instagram stories.
The “Irth” app stands for Birth without the “B for Bias.” This Yelp-like app was designed to address racism and bias in materntiy and infant care. Pregnant people can find prenatal, birthing, postpartum, and pediatric reviews for care providers by other Black women and birthing people, with an aim to eliminate racism and bias in these fields. Their website explains, “People are not being treated the same way at the same place. Black women have been paying the highest price.” Irth is also looking to partner with community organizations (info here).
What if everyone who wanted and needed more birthing support could access it? This organization in the greater Los Angeles area provides free doula services to African American families who met certain criteria, and says they “connect clients to community resources that traditional doulas may not have.” They further explain that “community-based doulas are focused on marginalized and/or under-served birthing families, they are more likely to witness and suport clients in navigating institutionalized racism and cultural incompetence within the medical setting.” Follow them on Instagram here.
National Birth Equity Collaborative
Their mission is simple--to ensure every baby makes it to their first birthdays (and that their moms are healthy and well enough to see it.) NBEC is focused on training, research, policy advocacy, and community-centered collaboration to address the root of the Black Maternal Mortality rate. During Black Maternal Mortality Week 2021, they are hosting a variety of sessions and events, including panel discussions, yoga classes, and collaborations to help people get involved in solving this crisis. Follow them on Instagram here.
Hi Jennifer, I just read about you this morning in the NewsPress. Your story touched me and I am glad you are showing that being a mother isn’t always about roses and prettiness. I raised two children all alone with their dad in another country, and I remember thinking it was so unfair to have to discipline my children even on Mother’s Day. Couldn’t I get a break at any time of the year? Little did I realize how precious those years actually were and how fortunate I was to even have children. Now, as a grandmother, I wish I could go back to those years and appreciate them more. But, now I have my little Sammy- my joy and delight. Thank you for your encouragement to all moms that are struggling. Thank you for the article about black mamas who are at risk when pregnant. My own grandmother, Juana, died because she didn’t get medical treatment while waiting at the hospital with her nineth baby. She was poor, Puerto Rican, and was left unattended. The story is real. Thank you for sharing with us. Melissa