Maternal Mortality statistics were released from a study in Illinois yesterday, reported by the Chicago Tribune. In Illinois, non-Hispanic Black women have a S I X times greater risk of death related to pregnancy and birth than non-Hispanic white women. Hispanic women face double the risk of white women.
I wish I could say we are shocked. We are not. We already understand this truth, and although these numbers are higher than other numbers reported, we already expected stats were worse than reported due to inconsistencies in the tracking and reporting of maternal deaths.
Today in conversation with a black birth worker and friend, Kimberly Davis of Nola Nesting in New Orleans, she told me “I am tired. I am left in pieces. My friends and sisters are pregnant and dying. I can’t read more.” I am saddened because I know how tired my black friends and peers are. The weight of addressing this issue cannot rest on their shoulders.
I am disappointed because I am still meeting people who do not know that this IS the reality women of color face.
Maternal mortality rates are high in the US, for everyone, the highest in the developed world. We are not caring for our mothers and babies and we have to address that reality. And we have to understand that in our nation we are not all equal.
What is killing our mothers? Blood clots, heart failure, hemorrhages, sepsis and mental health conditions. We know how to treat and prevent these deaths. We know how to save these women. They are failed by infant centric care. We have failed them, their families and their babies.
I am a white woman. I am a doula. I am a childbirth educator. BEST trains doulas and childbirth educators. We have a responsibility to know the reality our Black and Hispanic peers face throughout our nation, and do something. Reading this? So do you. We do not have time to sit on this and ponder and wonder. There’s no time to sit in sadness and shed tears because women are dying. We know what is causing this racial disparity. It’s racism. Black and minority women cannot earn or educate their way out of this. Education, income and access to healthcare is not the problem. And lives are on the line. We have to DO. We are world changers and we have to do just that.
What can you do?
Understand the facts. You can begin by reading the links above.
Use your voice. Talk to your peers. Talk to your clients.
Encourage people of color to be doulas, childbirth educators, nurses, OBs, midwives - all professions that interact with perinatal women (BEST provides a scholarship for people of color, and so do many other organizations)
Support birth workers of color
I wish we at BEST were shocked. We are not. And we will continue to DO until all birthing people can birth without dying preventable deaths.