According to the short documentary “Giving Birth in America: Louisiana” which highlights numerous driving factors that make women of color (especially black women) much more susceptible to complications during pregnancy, maternal mortality rates in the United States have doubled in the last 25 years (Howard, 2017). Despite improvements in medical technologies, medicine, and overall health from communicable diseases, I found it very disturbing and concerning to learn of the United States’ exceedingly high maternal mortality rate for an already developed, wealthy country. Although I am familiar with the maternal mortality rate, revisiting this rate has never failed to make me feel frustrated but hopeful to see improvement. I feel this way as my mother had many complications while having me. To this day, (especially on my birthday) she always reminds me of how she almost passed while giving birth to me. I think having this insight allows me to realize just how WOC are vulnerable to a plethora of issues within motherhood and life in general.
Such factors that influence maternal mortality among women of color in the US include racial disparities, socioeconomic status, and access to health care. Racial disparities among white and women of color are widely seen throughout America. Such disparities contribute to racial biases in which further add to forming distorted attitudes, racially motivated decisions, and systemic discrimination thereby impacting one’s experience in receiving care. Black women are treated differently and are much more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth no matter their economic status or power (Howard, 2017). On the other hand, socioeconomic status impacts women of color in a variety of ways. Poverty may impact the ability to receive care and have adequate housing. Housing conditions such as mold infestation may impact maternal morbidity. Lastly, another factor that influences maternal mortality in women of color as mentioned in the film is the access to care. Some women may struggle with transportation to and from doctor visits, ultimately impacting and possibly increasing the risk of complications. In addition, the level of care may be different depending on factors such as race.
These structural issues inevitably allow us to see how we can allocate care and shift perceptions towards improving the livelihood of women of color across the United States. Specifically, I think our healthcare system should provide and increase access to midwives and doulas for mothers as it has been found to be very effective in improving birth outcomes and reduce maternal mortality in women of color (Howard, 2019). Based on the podcast, “How Our Healthcare System Treats Black Mothers Differently,” I think our healthcare system could also normalize healthcare so that all women receive the same level of care regardless of socioeconomic status or race (Seervai, 2019). This may include educational conferences or implementing courses within schooling to help healthcare professionals in making sure that care is equitable.
While our healthcare system has steps to go in ensuring the safety and health of expecting mothers, many organizations within the US are taking initiative to change policy and work to improve maternal mortality. Specifically, Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA) is an all Black-women led activist group that devotes working towards reproductive and birth justice of Black mothers across the US. The BMMA centers its mission on 4 central goals. Including advocating for the advancement of policies that are rooted in addressing “Black maternal health inequity and improves Black maternal health outcomes,” the cultivation of research to better inform policymakers that help to promote Black maternal health, the advancement of care for mothers, and shift the culture to “Redirect and reframe the conversation on Black maternal health and amplify the voices of Black mamas” (BMMA, n.d). While the Black Mamas Matter Alliance is mainly a voice-led group, their services include training, maternity care services (such as clinicians, midwives, doula networks, and so on), technical assistance, “capacity building for grassroots organizations.” and connecting/collaborating with other significant Black women-led organizations and initiatives such as the National Black Midwives Alliance (based in Georgia) and Black Women’s Health Imperative (based in Washington, D.C) (BMMA, n.d). The BMMAs also hosts health conferences where training and lecture sessions take place over a span of a few days (BMMA, n.d). These conferences have topics that range from birth justice to policy and research.
BMMA. (n.d.). Home. Retrieved from https://blackmamasmatter.org/
Cottom, R. C. (2019). Dying to be Competent. In Thick (pp. 79–96).
Howard, J. (2017, November 15). Childbirth is killing black women, and here's why. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2017/11/15/health/black-women-maternal-mortality/index.html
Howard, J. (2019, November 16). Midwives, doulas could benefit births -- but not all women have access. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/16/health/midwives-doulas-every-mother-counts-wellness/index.html
Seervai, S. (2019, October 18). How Our Health Care System Treats Black Mothers Differently. Retrieved from https://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/podcast/2019/oct/how-our-health-care-system-treats-black-mothers-differently
Black Mamas Matter Alliance. (2019) We've Got the Power [image]. Retrieved fromhttps://twitter.com/BlkMamasMatter/status/1202052478189092864