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Black Maternal Health Crisis

Updated: Jun 12, 2023

Pregnant black woman sitting criss cross on a bed caressing her belly

Having a safe birth is not a privilege, it's a right.

The United States leads the world in maternal mortality rates. Black women are 243 percent more likely than white women to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes. America lacks a stable postpartum framework to assist mothers facing physical, emotional, and hormonal challenges after giving birth.

Black man and woman standing in front of a crowd of protestors for Black Maternal Healthcare

The documentary film "Aftershock"

brought to light the under-reported crisis of Black maternal health. The film depicts the maternal health challenges that mothers face, with a focus on Black mothers. It also tells the story of a young woman who tragically died during childbirth due to complications.

Racism, prejudice and cultural climate have impacted African Americans' psychological health and well-being, according to a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

How can we address Black maternal health disparities? One approach is to recognize the true history of Black women's reproductive and maternal health. J. Marion Sims, known as the "Father of Gynecology," performed anesthetic-free reproductive procedures on enslaved Black women.

Having more healthcare workers of color would help deconstruct health stigmas in Black communities and provide affected individuals with culturally competent resources. The ability of insurance companies to cover the costs of doulas, midwives, postpartum care, and other services would increase the financial burden of accessing healthcare.

Graphic of Black Maternal Health Momnibus

The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 was proposed by the Biden administration as part of the Build Back Better plan. The bill addressed multi-agency efforts to improve maternal health, particularly among racial and ethnic minority groups, veterans, and other vulnerable people.

The goal of The Department of Health and Human Services is to address the social determinants of maternal health. These factors, which include child care, housing, food security, transportation, and environmental circumstances, affect women's ability to have a healthy pregnancy and give birth.

The legislation would protect the health of low-income postpartum and breastfeeding women, babies, and children. It would also extend eligibility for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. Other goals include support training, technology, and telehealth initiatives.

New Yorkers have rallied for change, calling for activity to aid the underlying inequality Black and Brown women experience during pregnancy and birth. One bill from the package was signed into law by President Biden, the Protecting Moms Who Served Act, which puts $15 million into boosting maternity care for military veterans. However, the rest of the bills in the act remain stalled in Congress.

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