“In 21st-Century America, no woman should die in childbirth.” … But they do

“Maternity care desert is is where there is limited access for women who are pregnant.” 

Access to health care is not just as simple as facilities being open. The distance someone has to travel to get to that facility also matters. The people who live in “Maternity Desert” in Washington , D.C. are predominantly African American, making this not just an issue of access but also racial inequality in health care access.

Screen Shot 2018-03-29 at 8.42.35 PM
Screenshot via youtube.com

This video does a great job showing the effects of this unequal access on one woman, Amber, whose story demonstrates how the distance she needs to travel for health care impacts her health care and her employment. All of these issues intersect, and make it more difficult to carry a healthy pregnancy. This is unfortunately an issue that women all over the country face, not just in D.C. We should do better for families.

Links Roundup: Racial Disparities in Maternal Mortality

Higher rates of maternal death among Black women in the US have been evident in research for a long time but have lately gotten a lot more mainstream coverage. The increase in coverage is important to raising awareness and implementing changes in health care that would improve outcomes, but it has unfortunately come out of tragic deaths and near misses among new mothers, including Erica Garner and Shalon Irving.

 Serena Williams’ Birthing Experience Highlights The Danger Of Being Black And Postpartum (1.10.18 via Essence) Serena Williams, one of the greatest athletes of all time, experienced a near-fatal blood clot shortly after giving birth. Her own knowledge and self-advocacy helped clue medical professionals in to save her life.

Black mothers are dying: the toll of racism on maternal health (1.11.18 via STAT) This is an op-ed, so it doesn’t go quite as depth as some of the other articles I’m linking, but I think it’s a good one because it gives an overview of many of the factors that contribute to the racial disparity in maternal deaths, from preventative care and the policies that dictate accessibility, to institutional racism in medical professions.

Too many black women like Erica Garner are dying in America’s maternal mortality crisis (1.10.18 via Vox) Activist Erica Garner died within months of giving birth. Her death, particularly in light of her anti-racist activism, highlights the relationship between experience of racism and poor health outcomes for women of color. Vox writes:

Research has shown that a number of factors, including poor access to pre- and postnatal care, chronic stress, and the effects of racism, and inadequate medical treatment in the years preceding childbirth are all likely to play a role in a black woman’s likelihood to suffer life-threatening complications in the months that come before and after childbirth.

These issues might appear to suggest that the disparity between black women and white women dying from pregnancy-related causes is due to economic differences, but research has found that black women in higher economic brackets are still more likely than white women to die from pregnancy- and childbirth-related problems.

How Hospitals are Failing Black Mothers (12.27.17 via ProPublica) This is a really fascinating analysis by ProPublica (an organization that does really fascinating, in-depth reporting, support them!) into the differences in outcomes of maternal hemorrhage at hospitals in New York, Florida and Illinois. They found “that women who hemorrhage at disproportionately black-serving hospitals are far more likely to wind up with severe complications, from hysterectomies, which are more directly related to hemorrhage, to pulmonary embolisms, which can be indirectly related. When we looked at data for only the most healthy women, and for white women at black-serving hospitals, the pattern persisted.”

Nothing Protects Black Women from Dying in Pregnancy and Childbirth (12.7.17 via ProPublica and NPR) This is one you should sit down for and grab a box of tissues. Shalon Irving, a 36 year old CDC epidemiologist studying structural inequality and its relationship with poor health outcomes, died weeks after giving birth in 2017. There’s no pull quote I can find that really captures it, you really should just read the whole thing.