Black Mothers in America Are Dying and We Need To Talk About It
There's a problem with black mothers dying in America and it's an issue that we aren't talking about, but we need to. Here's an incredibly sobering statistic for you: according to American Progress.org, black mothers are 243 percent more likely to die from pregnancy than white women in the United States.
You might have to read that again to let it truly sink in.
That's a staggering, truly startling fact and it's completely unacceptable in a country with access to some of the best healthcare in the entire world. The fact that something that is supposed to be a wonderful, beautiful time in a woman's life could turn deadly is almost unimaginable in today's world. And yet, it's happening. And it's happening in our country, in our states, and in our communities. So why does such a large racial divide exist during pregnancy for black women? The answer goes far back, into systematic racism that has affected how communities were formed, resources were given, and policies were made.
There are many reasons that black mothers are dying in disproportionate numbers as compared to other races. For one thing, black mothers are more likely to live in areas lacking adequate pregnancy and postpartum resources, such as affordable healthcare or insurance that lets them go to the doctor's during their pregnancies. Because many black mothers are their family's sole or primary providers, black mothers are more likely than white women to be near the poverty level and may have to return to work sooner than is safe for their bodies, placing them at risk for postpartum complications such as infections.
And on top of all the very real physical barriers, there is the “invisible” barrier that black women are still treated as if they are “tougher” than white women; a doctor may be more likely to dismiss a concern from a black woman than a white woman for instance. Look at the case of Serena Williams, one of the world's most famous figures — even she almost died from a medical professional dismissing the fact that she was experiencing a life-threatening emergency. American Progress notes that even when black women have access to all of the other aspects of pregnancy, such as medical care, and factors such as income level, education, and housing are all controlled for, black women are still more at risk for death due to pregnancy-related factors.
And the differences don't just stop with pregnancy; black women also have higher rates of depression when compared to white, non-Hispanic women. The truth is shocking and hard to comprehend but when we talk so much about pregnancy and parenting, especially in an online space, it's even more important than ever to be reminded that pregnancy is not the same for every woman. Pregnancy differs widely among women, based on cultural, socio-economic, and financial factors. What might be an exciting, beautiful time for one woman can just as easily be a frightening and risky time for another.
So what can we do to change the experience of pregnancy to make it safer for all women? It starts with recognizing that these kinds of racial disparities exist during pregnancy and being aware of it within our own communities. And after that, it comes down to action. Voting for policies and people that see these issues and are willing to support policies and laws that support all women, especially those most at risk. Our country is a country that still needs a lot of work in valuing women, especially during pregnancy and motherhood. We have a long ways to go, but talking about these issues is an important first step.