More than 73,000 black lives have been lost during the pandemic, accounting for 15% of all COVID-related deaths, the highest of all races, according to The Atlantic’s COVID follow-up project.
This disparity was seen later in a CDC study by looking at how COVID-19 affects pregnant women. Black women made up 14.1% (57,572) of those included in the study and accounted for 36.6% (176) of the total 447 deaths. Of the 34 deaths of pregnant women, 26.5% (nine) were black women.
“Regardless of pregnancy status, black women have experienced a disproportionate number of deaths compared to their distribution among the reported cases,” the study said. “This analysis highlights racial and ethnic disparities in both the risk of infection and the severity of disease in pregnant women, indicating the need to address potential risk factors in these populations.”
This is not a new trend. CDC Pregnancy Mortality Monitoring System, updated to 2017, found 41.7 deaths per 100,000 live births for black women. This is the highest number of deaths by live birth. The closest number is seen among Native American or Alaska Native women with 28.3 deaths per 100,000 live births. Black women are three times more likely to give birth than white women.
In black women, chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension are more prevalent and less controlled, putting them at a higher risk of pregnancy-related complications. However, racial disparities in maternal health care are caused by “racism, not race,” an NPR report mentionned. Discriminatory policies like redlining create structural barriers to health care, such as lack of transportation, childcare issues and inadequate housing.
In the Birth Without Prejudice Mini-report by Irth, the black and brown parents gave feedback on their care in hospitals. The report found that about 20% of women of color felt their requests for help were refused or ignored, compared to 11% of white women.
“It has become clear to me that people are not treated the same, even in the same place,” said Kimberly Seals Allers, founder of Irth. tell Forbes. “We needed to be able to see the reviews of people like us. Reading a review of a middle-class white woman on the Upper East Side is not going to help a low-income black woman.
Even Serena Williams was no exception. In his February 2018 Vogue coverWilliams spoke of the serious complications she faced after giving birth to her daughter and the skepticism of her doctors. Williams eventually ended up with six weeks of bed rest due to various complications, including blood clots and intense coughing fits that opened up her Caesarean section wound.
This public account of a poignant medical history has prompted many black women to speak out on Twitter, sharing their own stories. “This is how you know that racism in medicine can impact anyone, regardless of income level. Staff should have been prepared for a bleeding problem based on their history, ”a user wrote.
In a 2017 study by NPR and ProPublica, the results showed that the United States has the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and that number is increasing.
U.S. Representatives Lauren Underwood and Alma Adams, Senator Cory Booker and members of the Black Maternal Health Caucus introduced the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021. Momnibus “Builds on existing legislation to comprehensively address all dimensions of the maternal health crisis in America.” Existing efforts include the fight for 12-month postpartum Medicaid coverage, which is the largest provider of maternity care for black women.
The Momnibus is made up of 12 titles, each of which has been presented as stand-alone invoices.
The president of the American Medical Association, Susan R. Bailey, MD, recently wrote on support for the law on awareness of maternal and child mortality and morbidity, or the MOMMA law. The legislation would extend postpartum care coverage to 12 months, down from just 60 days. This is essential because about 33% of pregnancy-related deaths occur between a week and a year after childbirth.
Bailey cited the crisis caused by multiple factors, such as reduced access to comprehensive reproductive health care, the closure of rural and urban maternity hospitals, and inadequate insurance coverage before, during and after pregnancy.
“Other contributing factors include long-standing public policies, laws and racism that produce inequalities in social determinants of health such as education, employment, housing and transportation,” Bailey said.