Black Women Are 3-4 Times More Likely To Die During Delivery Than White. Policymakers Are Finally Paying Attention

Written by Ann Brown
Black Women
Photo by Andre Adjahoe on Unsplash

You’d think that in the year 2019, Black women wouldn’t be in danger when giving birth. But still, Black women suffer higher mortality rates when giving birth than white women. And it affects Black women of all levels of economic status.

“A 2016 analysis of five years of data found that Black, college-educated mothers who gave birth in local hospitals were more likely to suffer severe complications of pregnancy or childbirth than white women who never graduated from high school,” NPR reported.

Take Serena Williams. When she was suffering distress following childbirth, she demanded to be taken seriously. If she hadn’t, she might have been one of the statistics.

“Winner of 23 Grand Slam singles titles, she’d been playing tennis since age 3—as a professional since 14. Along the way, she’d survived a life-threatening blood clot in her lungs, bounced back from knee injuries, and drowned out the voices of sports commentators and fans who criticized her body and spewed racist epithets. At 36, Williams was as powerful as ever. She could still devastate opponents with the power of a serve once clocked at 128.6 miles per hour. But in September 2017, on the day after delivering her baby, Olympia, by emergency C-section, Williams lost her breath and recognized the warning signs of a serious condition,” Harvard Public Health Magazine reported.

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Williams actually got out of bed and went to the hospital hallway to find a nurse, telling her she feared another blood clot and needed a CT scan and an IV of heparin, a blood thinner. The nurse didn’t initially listen, instead telling Williams her pain medication was probably making her confused.

“Williams insisted that something was wrong, and a test was ordered—an ultrasound on her legs to address swelling. When that turned up nothing, she was finally sent for the lung CT. It found several blood clots. And, just as Williams had suggested, heparin did the trick,” Harvard Public Health Magazine reported.

Finally, it seems the health industry is taking Williams and other Black mothers seriously. The CDC and other health agencies are now not only reporting the stats on Black mothers mortality rates but trying to discover the reasons.

According to the CDC, 700 to 900 new and expectant mothers die in the U.S. each year, and an additional 500,000 women experience life-threatening postpartum complications — and a disproportionate number of the women suffering are Black.

“Put simply, for Black women far more than for white women, giving birth can amount to a death sentence. African-American women are three to four times more likely to die during or after delivery than are white women. According to the World Health Organization, their odds of surviving childbirth are comparable to those of women in countries such as Mexico and Uzbekistan, where significant proportions of the population live in poverty,” Harvard Public Health Magazines reported.