It’s no secret the COVID-19 pandemic had a profoundly negative effect on Black women, but one area that wasn’t discussed: Black women who die while giving birth.
According to newly released data from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Black Americans represent 13% of the population but account for almost one-third of total maternal deaths in the U.S. Additionally, pregnancy-related deaths among Black women have increased from 44 per 100,000 in 2019 to 55.3 per 100,000 in 2020.
Many of the reasons for pregnancy-related deaths can be attributed to systemic racism in the healthcare industry.
Additional research indicated Black women often struggle to get the right diagnosis, have symptoms dismissed or ignored by doctors, and the statistics back it up. Black women are more likely to give birth prematurely, have emergency C-Sections, and are less likely to be treated for pain.
These statistics have led Black women to take more control of their pregnancies and start looking for alternative options to childbirth. Laila (who requested to be called by her first name to hide her identity), who’s in her second trimester, told NBCLX she was determined to control her pregnancy, hiring a doula, whose top responsibility is to support the mother during pregnancy and birth.
Black women have been turning to doulas in increasing numbers, and studies show doulas improve pregnancy outcomes, specifically for women of color. Laila is also working with a birthing center that includes a racially diverse group of midwives for prenatal care and delivery.
Many Black women across the U.S. are making similar decisions, hiring other women of color who have given birth more than once, knowing what women are going through during labor, and listening to their concerns and requests. In hospitals, the doctor controls the situation and, as a result, often won’t listen to a Black mother concerning pain management during labor and childbirth.
Doulas and minority midwives can make women feel more protected when giving birth, providing a comfortable environment instead of a cold, white hospital room, which could lead to a shift in birthing services in the medical industry.