In the United States, Black women are three to four times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related causes. It’s worse in places like New York City, where Black women are 12 times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related causes. Overall, maternal mortality in the United States is increasing, while rates are decreasing in other parts of the world.
Clearly, the United States has a maternal health problem. Could increasing the number of Black health-care providers help solve this problem? The answer to that question is not just relevant for Black birthing parents, but for all U.S. parents who aren’t doing that well compared to the rest of industrialized nations.
On the surface, data show that the top medical causes of maternal deaths are cardiovascular diseases like high blood pressure that are brought on or exacerbated by pregnancy; non-cardiovascular diseases such as gestational diabetes; infection or sepsis; excessive bleeding known as hemorrhage; heart failure; and embolism, or blood clot. Some data suggest that while Black and white women are equally likely to experience pregnancy-related hemorrhage, for example, Black women are more likely to die from hemorrhage than white women. The same is seen for preeclampsia and eclampsia, which are pregnancy complications connected to high blood pressure.
But what underlies that?