Childbirth is killing Black mothers

Mother and newborn baby
Mother and newborn baby

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

The Center for Disease Control points to the fact that 50 percent of pregnancies are unplanned. These pregnancies are associated with increased mortality for the mother and infant. Lifestyle factors (e.g., smoking, drinking alcohol, unsafe sex practices and poor nutrition) and inadequate intake of foods containing folic acid pose serious health hazards to the mother and fetus and are more common among women with unintended pregnancies. The CDC estimates that half of the women that experience an unintended pregnancy do not seek prenatal care during the first trimester.

Historically, Black women in low-income communities haven’t had the same access to quality care as White women in high-income communities.

Those same factors shed light on disparities not only in maternal mortality but in obesity, hypertension, heart disease and overall health.

This is not a state-by-state solution to solving the problem of disparities. This is a national problem, and we all know it. It’s always the elephant in the room in the United States that things are different for Black women.

In an ideal world, a woman would have the opportunity to have a visit with a physician before she becomes pregnant to identify any potential risk factors before she gets pregnant. Then a woman would enter prenatal in her first trimester. Unfortunately, African American women are the least likely to have that first trimester of prenatal care.

The U.S. spends more per capita on health care than any other developed nation – has one of the most sophisticated, technologically advanced health care systems in the world, but we still have inequities. Black women are still suffering from preventable maternal deaths. A human rights framework provides a road map to solutions.

Just being a Black woman in America comes with its own level of stress.

Remember, I’m not a doctor. I just sound like one.

Take good care of yourself and live the best life possible!


This column is for informational purposes only. If you have a medical condition or concern, please seek professional care from your doctor or other health professional. Glenn Ellis is a Health Advocacy Communications Specialist and is available through

Stock photo

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Create a foundation for the future

Family Features

Making sure your children are ready to take on the world as adults is arguably one of the most important roles of a parent. Now, more than ever, education is the foundation of that preparation.

As technology continues to evolve, it’s important that children are learning, and also developing skills in high-demand areas, such as science, technology, engineering and math. A strong foundation of STEM learning is an important tool for the future, no matter the career path.

The experts at the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program, sponsored by the Monsanto Fund, are aiming to raise awareness of the benefits for today’s students, and partnering with farmers to award STEM grants that enhance programming at rural public school districts.

While nearly everyone has heard about STEM education in one way or another, some people don’t understand its true value in school and in the workplace.

It’s cutting edge.

When it comes to innovation, there’s no disputing that STEM is progressing changes throughout society. STEM fields are at the forefront of nearly all of the exciting modern developments, from the latest digital gadgets enabled by technology to ground-breaking scientific research. Another benefit of this progressive environment is the financial and social impact on the community. Skilled STEM workers are driving trends and innovations, which can create jobs and boost the economy. All of these attributes appeal to eager, young graduates looking to make their mark.

It’s where the jobs are.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics published a report on the 10 fastest-growing occupations through 2026. In the report, 100 percent of the jobs fall into STEM categories, from the No. 1 growth career – solar photovoltaic installers – to a handful of medical field jobs to statisticians, software developers and mathematicians.

It’s a chance to make a real difference.

STEM fields can drive true social change. Researching and uncovering new treatments, or even the cure, for a debilitating disease is only possible with skills gained through STEM learning. However, science isn’t the only STEM field that brings opportunities to make a difference in others’ lives. A career in technology could mean helping a child hear or see for the first time using a specially constructed device, for example.

It’s a stepping stone to dozens of industries.

While STEM learning lends itself well to a fairly large scope of career choices, that list is ever-expanding. In fact, most of today’s graduates find themselves hard-pressed to secure a position without some STEM training. Consider a seemingly distant field such as fashion, for example, where digital technologies enable design sketching, mathematic skills factor into creating patterns and some engineering knowledge is necessary for designing a runway show. One school district in Royal, Washington, is utilizing the program to raise academic achievement for students in the classroom and on state-mandated math tests. The America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education grant allows teachers to extend learning for students, especially those who are learning English as a second language, who need intervention but lack the technology at home.

It’s helpful in developing additional skills.

The specific training involved in STEM education can help lead to certain career paths that will be available in the future. However, it can also help with more general skills. Students typically follow processes in STEM programming and training, such as the scientific method, that give them a chance to work with other students, test hypotheses and find solutions. These challenges can often help in developing teamwork, leadership and other collaborative life skills.

Learn more about the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program at


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.