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White House officially recognizes Black Maternal Health Week

Black woman pregnancy
Posted at 10:45 AM, Apr 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-16 12:45:12-04

DENVER — This week is Black Maternal Health Week in Colorado, a time to bring awareness to equity issues expectant Black mothers face.

On Tuesday, the Biden administration issued a proclamation recognizing the week at the federal level, citing the United States's high maternal death rate for Black expectant mothers, which is three times higher than white expectant mothers.

“I think it’s a long time coming, this is something that has been a challenge for generations,” said Deidre Johnson, the executive director of the Center for African American Health in Denver.

Johnson said one contributing factor to the high mortality rate for Black expectant mothers is doctors ignoring signs of postpartum illnesses, something she personally experienced after the birth of her two sons.

“I ended up in the hospital, actually in the ICU, with postpartum eclampsia and to be honest, I went to the hospital a few times to let them know I wasn’t feeling well and I was ignored,” Johnson said.

Health experts said research showed doctors ignoring serious symptoms in Black mothers is an issue that Black women face no matter their economic status or access to health care.

“We know that you can be a white mom without a high school diploma and you will have a better outcome than a Black woman with a PhD, so when you control for economics and education, nothing changes,” Johnson said.

Johnson told Denver7 some states have tried to address this issue by treating all pregnancies as “high risk” for Black expectant mothers.

Johnson said the more recognition this issue gets, the closer the country can get to decreasing the high death rate.