Racial Disparities in Maternal Mortality
In the United States, Black and Native American women are almost three times more likely to die from pregnancy than white women. This disparity becomes even more visible with greater age and education level.
Why Is This Happening?
Even though the United States is classified as a developed country worldwide, racial discrimination that raged in the past is still persistent in today’s society. It can be argued that everyone is “equal” in the eyes of the law, but it does not change the fact that people do not enforce them due to their personal racist agendas. The inequality that exists in the deaths of pregnant black and Native American women is mainly because of the choices that medical staff make when treating them. Also, it is evident that Black and American Indian minorities are not given the same opportunities as white people in America because of the deep-rooted systemic racism that persists.
Systemic racism causes these minorities to experience higher levels of unemployment and poverty. African-Americans and Native Americans tend to form neighborhoods in a homogenous manner, and these communities are neglected by the system, leading to a lack of proper healthcare for women and education on contraceptives and pregnancy. The leading causes of pregnancy-related deaths are hemorrhages, hypertension, and embolism, which are all preventable during the labor process. Identifying that racism is the key to unlocking this issue is crucial because it can be argued that pregnant women of color are dying more only because of their lack of access or education, but the disparity between black and white women becomes wider even when having a college degree or higher.
Getting to the Bottom of It
To start, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investing almost $45 million for the next five years into the Enhancing Reviews and Surveillance to Eliminate Maternal Mortality (ERASE MM) program. This will provide 25 states with maternal mortality review committees to examine factors leading to maternal death disparities. Another organization, Safe Motherhood Initiatives, tries to ensure safe motherhood for all women. These policies include women getting appropriate care based on need with disregard to their background. Also, childbirth educators play an important role and could bring the overall maternal mortality rate to 3.3 per 100,000 from the current rate, which is 17.4.
In order to eliminate racial disparities, the healthcare industry must “implement the standardized protocols in quality improvement initiatives” and “identify and address implicit bias in healthcare.” If the doctors and nurses who are responsible for taking care of the pregnant mothers are not doing their job properly because of racial bias, they need to be held accountable by the people around them or they will cause the death of more innocent mothers.
Flanders-Stepans, M. B. (2000). Birthing Briefs: Alarming Racial Differences in Maternal Mortality. Journal of Perinatal Education, 9(2), 50–51. https://doi.org/10.1624/105812400x87653
Racial and Ethnic Disparities Continue in Pregnancy-Related Deaths. (2020). https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2019/p0905-racial-ethnic-disparities-pregnancy-deaths.html