Trigger Warning: This article contains sensitive and potentially disturbing information. Please take care while reading.
It is a fact that the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate among all developed countries.
Read that again.
Despite having the largest economy in the world, one of the largest military systems, and groundbreaking technological innovation – out of all the developed countries in the world – the US is the most dangerous place to give birth and Black women and babies are disproportionately affected. In fact, Black mothers are three to four times more likely to die than white mothers. What's even more upsetting is that 60% of those deaths are likely preventable.
What is maternal mortality rate?
The World Health Organization defines the maternal mortality ratio as the number of maternal deaths (a female death during pregnancy, childbirth, or within 42 days after termination of pregnancy) during a given time period per 100,000 live births during the same time period. What the ratio depicts is “the risk of maternal death relative to the number of live births and essentially captures the risk of death in a single pregnancy or a single live birth.”
The Inequities Black Women Face in Our Healthcare System
There are far too many stories that account for the tragic maternal deaths experienced by Black women and it's likely the statistics are still not capturing them all.
Consider 26-year old Sha-Asia Washington. She was a few days past her due date and went into the hospital for a routine stress test. When the hospital saw her blood pressure was abnormally high, they kept her admitted and gave her a medicine that induces uterine contractions and labor. They also gave her an epidural after she hesitantly consented.
According to family members who were at the hospital, all of a sudden she was in cardiac arrest. Doctors had to perform an emergency C-section to retrieve her baby Khloe, who was healthy. After 45 minutes of CPR, Sha-Asia was pronounced dead.
Sha-Asia’s death got national attention and sparked a petition in New York State to shed more light on the statistical inequities of maternal deaths for black women.