Numbers tell a story that’s hard to ignore.
According to CNN and the documentary series, Giving Birth In America, every year about 700 to 1,200 women die from pregnancy or childbirth difficulties in the United States. Of those women, black women are three to four times more likely to die in pregnancy or delivery complications than white women.
The big question is why black women are more affected than women of other raises. “The racial divide in maternal deaths has been persistent for decades,” Dr. Michael Lindsay, associate professor at the Emory University School of Medicine and chief of service for gynecology and obstetrics at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, told CNN.
Maternal deaths are rare in the United States, but doctors and researchers have varying ideas about what factors could be driving the racial disparity in death rates. What do experts think comes into play? For one thing, the differences in overall health and chronic illnesses among black and white women. As pointed out in the CNN documentary, rates of obesity and high blood pressure, which are also risk factors for pregnancy complications, tend to be higher among black women. Then there are differences in socioeconomic status, access to health care, education, insurance coverage, housing, levels of stress and community health among black and white women, including even implicit bias and variations in the ways in which health care is delivered to black versus white women.
According to CNN, health official, doctors and advocates met recently at the CDC in Atlanta to discuss efforts to measure and prevent maternal deaths and the racial disparities that continues unabatedly. At the meeting, according to CNN, Dr. William Callaghan, chief of the CDC’s Maternal and Infant Health Branch, said, “It’s not a state-by-state solution to solving the problem of disparities. This is a national problem, and we all know it. It’s always the elephant in the room in the United States that things are different,” he said. “You’ll find this across every health outcome.”