Why are Death Rates Higher for African American Pregnant Women?

Inequality in race and ethnicity is a huge factor in pregnancy-related deaths. One of the biggest reasons for this issue is that black women are undervalued. They receive less monitoring and often dismissed when showing bad symptoms.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women are three to four times more possible to die from pregnancy than white women.

Of all developed nations in the world, the United States ranks the worst in maternal mortality. Every year, roughly 700 women die due to pregnancy issues while almost 50,000 encounter severe complications in the U.S.

The problems that black women face during pregnancy was highlighted when tennis superstar Serena Williams experienced complications after giving birth to her daughter. The tennis player said in a popular magazine she had shortness of breath after her emergency in C-section. Since she has a history of blood clots, she knew there was something wrong.

She struggled in convincing her doctors and when they finally gave in, lots of clots were found in her lungs. Imagine what might have happened if she did not insist.

The mental health for the pregnancy of African American women is at risk if these problems persist.

Cause of Death

The CDC found out that obstetric emergencies like severe bleeding are one of the major causes of death during delivery. Problems associated with high blood pressure are responsible for most deaths from delivery day to the sixth day postpartum. Within 42 days after the delivery, strokes are more likely to happen.

The report also discovered that oftentimes, death takes place after the mother gave birth.

The higher rates of obesity among African-American women increase the risk of having pregnancy-related problems. Having a weak heart muscle can happen to all women but it usually occurs among women with color.

Researchers discovered that there is a high risk of dying within 28 days after discharge among black infants. Also, black babies are more prone to be born preterm.

Racial Bias

Racism affects how women receive treatment. Based on the report “Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care” by the National Academy of Sciences, stereotyping on people with color greatly affects the quality of health care they get.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists acknowledged the impact of racial bias on death related to pregnancy among women with color. Although there are movements in improving access to medical care for African American women, racial inequality persists. Almost 60% of all deaths linked to pregnancy can be prevented by having higher quality health care, communication, and access to stable transportation.


Discrimination greatly impacts the medical treatment received by pregnant African American women.

Researchers identified that during pregnancy, black women lack access to preventive care, acclaimed hospitals, and safe housing. Alongside this, gaining a higher income and education level does not protect women with color. Some people believed that the disparity is partially caused by racism in society.

Studies have learned that when facing the same health concerns, black patients often receive less pain medication than white parents. Also, black patients get fewer referrals for advanced cardiovascular treatments than white patients.

Unfortunately, 32 % of women with color feel they have been discriminated in physicians’ offices. Women with lower socioeconomic status are more prone to having problems during pregnancy because of a lack of access to proper care.

The high death rates in pregnancy among women with color have resulted in revision in the policy. Leaders in the medical field are encouraging doctors to perceive their own biases so they can fight it. With this, The Preventing Maternal Deaths Act gives grants to states that scrutinize deaths linked to pregnancy.

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