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Childbirth is killing Black mothers

GLENN ELLIS | 2/5/2018, 9:43 a.m.
Tennis superstar Serena Williams has revealed she needed an emergency C-section and had multiple surgeries after giving birth to her ...
Childbirth is killing Black mothers

Strategies for Well-Being

Tennis superstar Serena Williams has revealed she needed an emergency C-section and had multiple surgeries after giving birth to her daughter Alexis.

The day after the operation, she got terribly sick, and doctors found several small clots in her lungs.

Then she suffered another terrifying scare when her C-section scar popped open and medics found a large hematoma had flooded her abdomen. The sports star has a history of blood clots, so she was the one who raised the alarm after she found herself feeling short of breath 24 hours after becoming a mother. Williams was found to have a pulmonary embolism, and the coughing it caused meant her C-section wound popped open.

Because she had been taking blood-thinners to dispel the clots, the medication caused bleeding at the site of the incision doctors had made for the baby.

Williams has lots of influence, fame and power. Regrettably, she doesn’t represent the majority of Black women in this country who have babies. Even though maternal deaths are high for all women in America, Black women seem to get the “short straw.”

Women in the United States are more likely to die from childbirth- or pregnancy-related causes than other women in the developed world, and half of those deaths may be preventable.

The United States has one of, if not the worst, maternal mortality rate in the developed world. In fact, while global maternal death rates have dropped by more than a third from 2000 to 2015, the rate in the United States has more than doubled since 1987.

About 700 women in the United States die each year as a result of complications related to pregnancy or childbirth, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. But buried in state and national data related to maternal mortality rates is an even more worrisome trend: Black women bear the greatest risk of maternal death.

The tragedy of maternal death affects Black women disproportionately in the United States as they are nearly four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than White women.

But why is there such a big racial disparity in the first place? Why are Black women more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than any other racial group? Like many health-related issues, the answer isn’t simple and there’s no one single contributing factor at fault.

Some experts argue that higher rates of obesity, women having children at older ages, and other social changes and trends in public health could drive an apparent increase.

According to research from the CDC, the most common causes of maternal death in all women are cardiac events, drug overdoses, high blood pressure, eclampsia and hemorrhaging.

Others point to differences in socioeconomic status, access to health care, education, insurance coverage, housing, levels of stress and community health among Black and White women, including even implicit bias and variations in the ways in which health care is delivered to Black versus White women.

Another factor for consideration is tied to unplanned pregnancies. Black women are three times as likely as White women to experience an unintended pregnancy