Black women in California are no exception to the national maternal mortality rates
The national statistics regarding Black women and maternal mortality are alarming as they lead in the highest rates. These numbers are no different in California, even though great strides have been made to improve birth equity among Black women. According to PRB.org, Black birthing individuals are five times more likely to die from pregnancy-related conditions like cardiomyopathy and blood pressure disorders. That’s 3x’s higher than non-black women.These aren’t facts that we should ignore, as they highlight just how far we’ve come in advancing equity for all.
The fight to improve Black women’s access to healthcare has been a longstanding one. However, studies show that the Black women impacted by maternal mortality and morbidity are affected across all economic factors. A Black wealthy woman’s experience is no different than someone who lives in a lower-income area. Many are shocked to discover this.
In a California study called Listening to Mothers conducted by the National Partnership for Women and Families, it revealed that:
“Black women were more likely than white survey respondents to report that they had experienced discrimination during childbirth and depression during pregnancy. They had a higher number of postpartum care visits. Black Women also reported that they faced communication barriers with their providers, lacked practical and emotional support and started or returned to paid work earlier than they wanted after giving birth.”
These issues have occurred for centuries, and with this knowledge, one would think that there would be drastic improvements mainly due to these factors leading to death. However, changing the system is a daily struggle.
So why are Black women subjected to higher maternal death rates?
One word is responsible for higher maternal death rates for Black women, and that word is racism. Racism has a history of interfering with the health of Black individuals, so it’s no different for Black expecting mothers.
The racism, implicit bias, and lack of communication from providers lead to health disparities not being addressed and cause serious harm to Black women’s physical health. This issue has gained much media attention in the last few years, with Black mothers like famed tennis star Serena Williams recounting her near-death childbirth experience.
Williams had a c-section, and a day after her delivery, she experienced shortness of breath. She addressed her symptoms with hospital staff and suggested a CT scan and blood thinner. Due to her previous pulmonary embolism issues, she knew what her body needed. Williams had to repeatedly ask before she received the care she needed and was correct about her state of health. The doctors found several blood clots in her lungs, which they may not have if she didn’t beg for medical attention.
It’s daunting to think of a woman of legendary status like Serena Williams experiencing this type of negligence at the hands of medical professionals and almost feels hopeless for the average Black mother. All Black women deserve the proper care and attention necessary to keep them alive here in California and across the globe.
Nonprofits like the California Health Care Foundation have committed to helping provide equal access and improvement to the healthcare system for California residents, specifically the lower-income community.
I believe that change will come with these consistent efforts, but those who have more access and healthcare professionals must do their part. No woman should feel like their concerns are not taken seriously. If Black women are listened to, it would change the mortality rates significantly and improve humanity.