Here's Why Experts Say It's Unsafe To Be Pregnant and Black In America

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Activists and experts are again calling attention to the disproportionate risk of mortality Black mothers face in the U.S.

Amid Black Maternal Health Week, the White House issued a proclamation on Monday (April 10), detailing federal initiatives that are tackling maternal health and acknowledging the mortality disparity that Black communities face, per USA Today.

Black mothers and birthing people face the highest rate of mortality among all racial and ethnic groups in the U.S., and many of the deaths are preventable.

"Black women in America are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women," according to the White House proclamation. The Black maternal mortality rate is higher in the U.S. than in other high-income countries.

A CDC report in 2021 found that Black women's rates increased from 55 to nearly 70 deaths per 100,000 live births. Black women gave birth less in 2021, yet they still died at high rates, according to the report.

According to experts in the field, systemic racism and implicit bias have led to gaps in care for Black mothers and birthing people.

“People aren’t receiving the care that they deserve,” said Angela Doyinsola Aina, co-founder and executive director of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance. "We still have a lot of work to do, especially systemically.”

Rural Black women face an even higher risk of mortality. In the wake of the pandemic, the rural South saw significant labor, delivery, and hospital closures, which has contributed to the disparity.

Access to maternal health care is also underscored by poverty, according to obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Doee Kitessa.

“Access to care is not just hospitals and clinics. It's also impacted by people's ability to take time off of work to attend appointments, having transportation,” Kitessa said.

Aina said more support for midwifery and doula care could improve maternal health, especially in underserved communities.

Black patients fare better under the care of Black doctors, Kitessa said, so having more diversity in medicine is also key to combatting high mortality rates.

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