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The Black Maternal Health Crisis

NBC News reported the below statistics released by the National Center for Health Statistics in 2018:


“RESEARCHERS FOUND THAT OF THE 658 WOMEN WHO DIED OF MATERNAL CAUSES IN 2018, BLACK WOMEN FARED THE WORST, DYING 2½ TIMES MORE OFTEN THAN WHITE WOMEN.”


Neglecting the medical concerns of pregnant black mothers exacerbates these risks because an additional life is in danger and a fetus has absolutely no power to advocate for itself. Systemic racism is built into various American institutions and our healthcare system is not immune. With only 4% of active physicians identifying as black and 2% black female in the U.S., pregnant black women are statistically left to seek care from physicians who may not identify with them. This leaves them more likely to experience culturally and racially motivated bias towards their medical needs and concerns in comparison to white pregnant mothers.



The case of Kira Johnson’s (Judge Hatchett’s Daughter In Law) post c-section hemorrhaging demonstrates the perils of ignoring black women’s health concerns and how this attributes to black maternal mortality. “In April of 2016, Kira went to the hospital in Los Angeles where she had scheduled her routine C-section. After the procedure, Kira complained of severe pain in her abdomen. Over the next several hours she started to shake, grew pale and became increasingly sensitive to touch. When they saw blood in her catheter her family knew how serious it was. Charles and the rest of the family begged the doctor and medical staff to address Kira’s symptoms and run tests. A Cat-scan (CT) was ordered, but never happened. For more than 10 hours Kira writhed in pain with no response from her medical team. When Kira’s doctor finally took her into emergency surgery to find out what was wrong, 3 liters of blood were found in her abdomen. The doctors had lacerated her bladder during the C-section and Kira had been bleeding internally for hours. Kira died on the operating table.” Kira was told her medical issue was not a priority when her husband first reported her symptoms, but had she received timely attention and medical care, Kira may still be alive today to raise her

second child. Given the statistics, one can’t help but wonder if Kira would have received prompt medical attention at Cedars Sinai Los Angeles if she were not black?


IN JANUARY 2020, CALIFORNIA PASSED LEGISLATION THAT REQUIRES HOSPITAL’S TO TRAIN MATERNITY STAFF ON IMPLICIT RACIAL BIAS TO IMPROVE BLACK MATERNAL AND INFANT MORTALITY OUTCOMES. HOWEVER, TO OBTAIN SUPPORT, MORE BLACK WOMEN ARE SEEKING THE ALTERNATIVE SERVICES OF DOULA’S AND MID-WIVES TO HELP SUPPLEMENT OR EVEN REPLACE TRADITIONAL MATERNAL MEDICAL CARE.


While California progressively tries to move forward with remedying this situation, the rest of the country still needs to do more. The continuation of the black race depends on the nation doing more. No black woman should feel the need to exit the US medical system to seek trustworthy maternal care because of her race in 2021.

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