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Maternal Mortality and Black Women: 3 Things You Must Know

You may have seen the headlines.

“Black Mothers Keep Dying After Giving Birth.”

“Maternal Death Rate Among Black Women Higher Than White Women.”

They’re not fake news.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 41.7 deaths per 100,000 live births for Black women. Compare this to 13.4 deaths per 100,000 live births for white women.

This is just one of many frightening facts about maternal health that Black women of child-bearing age must face.

Here are three things you need to know about maternal mortality rates in the Black community.

1. Black women are more likely to die during childbirth.

According to the CDC, Black women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women — and the disparity increases with age. Black women over the age of 30 are 4 to 5 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes.

Disparities also exist when it comes to education levels. The pregnancy-related mortality rate for Black women with a college degree or higher is five times that of white women with similar education.

2. Underlying health conditions make pregnancy riskier.

Heart disease and stroke caused more than 1 in 3 (34%) pregnancy-related deaths, according to the CDC. For Black women, the risk of developing heart problems during pregnancy is higher even if they have health insurance and a higher income, according to a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

The study’s findings are based on records from more than 46 million women between 2007 and 2017.

Cardiovascular problems related to pregnancy are rare, but they do happen. Complications that can arise include blood clots in the lungs, cardiomyopathy, heart attack and stroke.

Another problem that can develop is preeclampsia, which is 60% more common in Black women. Preeclampsia causes a dangerous rise in blood pressure in pregnant women.

3. Most maternal deaths are preventable.

The healthcare solutions to prevent and manage pregnancy-related complications are well known. That’s why it’s important for pregnant women to have access to high-quality care during and after childbirth.

While it’s up to healthcare systems to address systematic health inequities, there are things women can do to obtain the best care they can. If you are pregnant or plan on getting pregnant, here are a few actions you can take.

Schedule a well-woman visit.

One of the best ways to combat maternal mortality is to take care of yourself before you get sick. Your healthcare provider can screen you for common conditions associated with pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, preeclampsia and placental abruption.

Stay up to date with preventive tests.

Make sure you get breast screenings and Pap tests. Diagnosing and treating health conditions now can help prevent pregnancy complications.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Mental wellbeing during pregnancy and postpartum is just as important as physical health. Talk to your doctor if you’re having feelings of anxiety, depression or not being able to cope.

Don’t wait to seek treatment.

If you’re experiencing any pregnancy or postpartum symptoms that worry you, immediately seek medical attention. Call your healthcare provider or go to the emergency department for urgent concerns.

If you need a healthcare provider, you can find one near you using Tanner’s Find a Provider tool. Visit Tanner’s Health Library to learn more about maternal mortality and how health disparities affect minority communities.

Women’s Care, Tanner Medical Group

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