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Shining light on pregnancy-related deaths among Black women

April Valentine, 31, planned to celebrate her new birth with family and friends, but instead her loved ones found themselves in front of Centinela Hospital in Inglewood on Jan. 28, protesting her death.


‘Birthing Justice’ screened in Inglewood

By Charlene Muhammad | California Black Media

April Valentine, 31, planned to celebrate her new birth with family and friends, but instead her loved ones found themselves in front of Centinela Hospital in Inglewood on Jan. 28, protesting her death.
Valentine’s family alleges that she complained about leg pain for hours during the birth of her child on Jan.10, but was ignored and neglected by her caretakers at the medical center that specializes in maternal care.
Valentine, pregnant with her first child, died that day.
Her plight is only one episode, advocates say, in what is an escalating crisis affecting Black women during pregnancy throughout California and across the country.
Recently, a group of advocates collaborated to bring awareness to the Black maternal and infant health crisis with a free screening of the film “Birthing Justice: Every Woman Deserves a Beautiful Birth Story” at The Miracle Theater in Inglewood.
“Birthing Justice” covers the issues underpinning — and helping to fuel — the maternal health crisis within the African-American community and articulates best practices to enhance birthing equity for all women, especially Black women.
Denise Pines, the executive producer of “Birthing Justice” and co-founder of Women In The Room Productions, discussed the issue affecting the lives of millions of African-American women.
“We probably will end up having a hundred screenings, and we want to share with legislatures, policy makers, with healthcare institutions, the lived experience of people who are coming into the screenings so they actually have the real data, and we can use that to make the case for some of the actions we want to see happen,” Pines said.
The event was sponsored by African-American Infant/Maternal Mortality (AAIMM); Girls Club-Los Angeles; Southern Christian Leadership (SCLC)-Southern California; Charles Drew University; Black Maternal Health Center of Excellence; Children’s Institute; and Black Women for Wellness (BWW).
Pines recommended supporting and volunteering with the organizations that do the much-needed work to address pregnancy-related deaths of Black mothers and babies and to get better outcomes overall.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Black women were three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than White women. Multiple factors contributed to these disparities, such as variation in quality healthcare; underlying chronic conditions; structural racism; and implicit biases.
When compared to poor White women with less education, Black women had worse death rates. Black women are reportedly unable to buy or educate themselves out of being a statistic when it comes to pregnancy-related deaths.
Dr. LaTanya Hines, an OB/GYN and member of the Association of Black Women’s Physicians (ABWP) said she was an unapologetic and proud advocate for Black women.
“Nobody should die in pregnancy,” Hines said while addressing the importance of OB/GYN care, stressing the need to start conversations with patients from their first visit about planning their pregnancies. She said their vital statistics are also critical — making sure that their blood pressure, blood sugar and weight were well controlled before they got pregnant so that their birthing experience is healthy and safe.
“I am going to work with you, and we will have a shared decision-making plan,” Hines emphasized. “The goal of giving more to your patients because they need more, and if we happen to give little more than what they need, it’s okay.”

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