Black mothers could be dying because of stress caused by systematic racism
Racial discrimination might contribute to the alarming maternal mortality rate among black American mothers, as outlined in a study the Center for American Progress released Thursday.
Authors Christina Novoa, a policy analyst for Early Childhood at the Center, and Jamila Taylor, a senior fellow at the Center, looked to examine the impact discrimination — both racial and gender — has on the growing crisis. Black mothers are three to four times more likely than other races to die from complications during pregnancy or childbirth. Infant mortality among children born to black mothers is twice the rate of others, too.
These facts are true despite education and socioeconomic status. Upon having her first child in September, Serena Williams nearly died from post-delivery complications because the doctors didn’t take her seriously. Her story shed light on the discrimination black mothers face everyday.
The Center report juxtaposed Williams and Erica Garner, the 27-year-old activist who died of a heart attack on Dec. 30, to highlight this fact. Garner came into the spotlight in 2014 after her father Eric was choked to death by New York police. Her fatal heart attack wasn’t her first. She had one shortly after giving birth to her son in August 2017. Garner had an enlarged heart that could have been strained by the stress of pregnancy — and her father’s tragic and unfair death.
Risk factors, including poverty, prenatal care, and physical and mental health, aren’t enough on their own to explain why so many black mothers are dying, the study suggests.
Novoa and Taylor wanted to dig deeper to see how racism’s harmful effects are connected to the numbers.
Healthy, full-term pregnancies and safe labors are more likely to happen when women are physically and mentally healthy before becoming pregnant,” their report read.
America’s vile history of racism has taken its toll. Because of racial segregation, social and environmental risk factors are heightened for blacks. Think about substandard housing, concentrated poverty, disproportionate police violence, and poor access to quality food, health care and employment opportunities, including the lack of jobs with flexible schedules and livable pay.
Healthcare stands out among these risks. Medical professionals don’t take black women’s pain seriously — Williams, for instance, had to save her own life because of it. Black women have expressed that they’ve felt devalued and disrespected by healthcare professionals, according to the study.
The Center’s most recent work is part of a growing body of research that suggests the racial and gender discrimination black women share contribute to their alarming maternal and infant mortality rates.
“The impacts of institutional racism and sexism compromise women’s health across time, leading to poorer outcomes for African American women and infants,” the report read.