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Black expectant mothers face challenges that must be addressed


Highest death rates among developed nations

By Terry Kanakri | OW Guest Contributor

It’s a sad statistic: Studies show that maternal death rates in the U.S. are higher than all other high-income countries, and the disparities in these deaths are significant.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the racial disparities in maternal death rates are significant. Black women are nearly three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. 

Also, Black women are more than twice as likely as their white peers to have uncontrolled high blood pressure during their childbearing years, raising their risk for pregnancy-related complications.

“It should also be noted that mental health conditions are also the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths,” said Dr. Latanya Hines, OB/GYN,  Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles Medical Center, who also practices at the Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Medical Offices. “Twenty percent of mothers experience these conditions, and rates among Black women are nearly twice as high. In many parts of the country, up to half of these women don’t receive any support or treatment.”

According to studies:

Many Black expectant mothers, who are low-income face barriers to accessing prenatal care, as well as postpartum care for up to 3 months post-birth. These obstacles include:

Personal barriers: Work, childcare, transportation, education, culture, language

Health system barriers: Limited hours of operation, lack of services

 Many health conditions, such as high blood pressure and gestational diabetes, affect Black women at disproportionately higher rates than white women.

These conditions increase the risk of maternal health risks and can also have health consequences for the baby.

Kimberly Haley, a Black woman from Inglewood who gave birth just six months ago to a baby boy, said she was nervous at first while being pregnant with her child.

Like many Black expectant mothers, Haley was unsure about the treatment she was going to receive, about being heard, and her concerns not being dismissed.

That was especially important since she was showing some symptoms that are typically correlated with a condition called preeclampsia that can cause a stroke and death if left untreated.

“I needed a doctor to be my advocate, and Dr. Hines was the one,” she said. “I was nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t want to die! But I ended up delivering a healthy baby boy and felt very well taken care of.”

Dr. Hines said making sure Black women feel at ease and having all their questions answered as well as being provided the high-quality prenatal care they all deserve is key to a successful pregnancy.

“It’s all about communication and understanding the culture,” Dr. Hines said. “More and more doctors understand that now, and that’s good news for everyone involved.”

 Terry Kanakri is a senior media relations specialist with Kaiser Permanente