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Maternal mortality rates higher among Black mothers, CDC data shows

Posted at 2:57 PM, Sep 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-22 10:27:59-04

DENVER — As expectant mothers prepare to welcome their new bundle of joy to the world, some moms have the mental anguish of thinking about their own deaths and possibly the death of their own child.

2020 statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show among the 100,000 babies born alive that year, there were 13 deaths among white women, but among Black women, that number more than tripled at 42.4 deaths.

Denver 7’s Micah Smith spoke with Dr. Sasha Andrews, maternal fetal medicine specialist with Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center, about the best way for expectant mothers of color to protect themselves and their babies.

Andrews says learning about maternal mortality means knowing exactly what it is and why it so largely impacts Black women. When it comes to Black mothers, there are contributing factors that lead to the heightened numbers. Some of those factors have less to do with the mother’s actual condition and more to do with her socioeconomic class. Other factors include structural racism, wealth gaps, higher unemployment rates and decreased access to care.

Maternal mortality rates higher among Black mothers, CDC data shows

Andrews said, sadly, one major concern from mothers of color is being ignored.

Even A-list tennis star Serena Williams spoke out about feeling dismissed by doctors while pregnant. Dr. Andrews, who didn’t treat Williams, stresses when a mother feels something is wrong, they should speak out and make sure their concerns are addressed. The first step is being aware.

Being open and honest with a doctor can save a life, Dr. Andrews says, adding mothers shouldn’t be afraid to get a second opinion if they feel uncomfortable with the care they’re receiving. Most importantly, she said, don’t ignore you own feelings.

Black physicians are just 5% of doctors nationwide. Andrews says we need to make sure we encourage young children of color to enter the medical field so treatment can continue to be provided to patients. She says studies show more Black doctors will help lower maternal mortality numbers.

In a closer look at the statistics locally, Colorado’s Maternal Mortality department’s 2020 report shows there were 94 pregnancy associated deaths in the state between 2014 and 2016. The state is looking to update those statistics in the coming week. You can find a copy of the most recent report here.