February is Black History Month in the United States and Canada (and recognized in October in the United Kingdom and other places) and I am dedicating several posts this month and beyond to the state of maternal-infant health for Black families. Black parents are four times more likely to die in the United States during pregnancy, birth or after birth than white people. Additionally, the majority of these deaths are preventable with proper care and attention during the prenatal and postpartum period. The simple fact is, that Black families have higher morbidity and mortality during the childbearing year. Racism is to blame and until that is accepted as fact, it is unlikely to change.
Shafia Monroe is a Portland-based midwife, doula trainer, motivational speaker and a cultural competency trainer who recently blogged about the issue of Black parents dying in a post titled Ending Black U.S. Maternal Mortality. In her post, Shafia shared the common thread amongst Black parents dying during the childbearing year.
- "Ignoring Black women’s plea for medical attention.
- The unconscious bias against Black women.
- Dismissing the health care needs of pregnant and postpartum Black women.
- Not believing Black women when they say, “something is wrong.”
- Allowing Black postpartum mothers to die."
Shafia shared a link to the Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA) which has created an extensive toolkit loaded with resources that can be found here. The BMMA states that the toolkit was created to provide "advocacy tools that would move the conversation one step closer to a rights-based maternal health policy agenda." Information includes the following.
- Introduction and Acknowledgments
- Advancing Maternal Health as a Human Rights Issue
- Research Overview of Maternal Mortality and Morbidity in the United States
- A State Policy Framework for the Right to Safe and Respectful Maternal Health Care
- Talking Points for Advocates
- Resources on Maternal Health in the United States
- Stay Connected
Propublica in cooperation with NPR has been running a great series called Lost Mothers throughout 2017 until now, whose purpose has been to examine the issue of maternal mortality in the USA. They ran two exceptional pieces specifically focusing on Black maternal mortality and morbidity
In a recent article put out by NBC News, The Elephant in the Delivery Room: How Doctor Bias Hurts Black and Brown Mothers. Author Esther Choo referred to the most recent Listening to Mothers national childbearing survey, where "21% of black mothers...hospitalized for childbirth reported perceptions of poor treatment due to race, ethnicity, cultural background, or language."
None of this is acceptable. Not one single bit. Every person must lean in with a massive effort to turn this ship around. We are all accountable. We are all responsible. Inaction is not an ethical or acceptable response. Please join me in creating action plans that can help in whatever way we can, whether by financial contributions, energy, and effort toward existing programs that need help or establishing new programs designed to specifically address the fact that Black parents are dying disproportionately in the childbearing year than white parents. Look for more posts this month and throughout the year that tackles this issue head-on.