Reducing Black Maternal Mortality During Pregnancy and Postpartum - Mommyato Blog
Black women are three times more likely to die of pregnancy related causes than white women. Check out our article on black maternal mortality.
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Reducing Black Maternal Mortality During Pregnancy and Postpartum

black maternal mortality

Reducing Black Maternal Mortality During Pregnancy and Postpartum

Black women are three times more likely to die of pregnancy related causes than white women.¹

What Factors Affect Black Maternal Mortality Rates?

April 11-17 is black maternal health week. It’s an inadequate window of time where there is an acute lens focused on the healthcare disparities that black women experience during pregnancy and postpartum.

Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy related causes. Why?

The reasons are multi-faceted. Not least of all is the structural (institutional) racism that continues to exist in the United States, which blocks women of color from access to quality perinatal care (healthcare before, during and after pregnancy).

Black and brown women often face cost-related barriers to receiving healthcare services. This can translate into diagnosis at later stages of a disease process (often leading to death), seeking ER care for problems that are treatable in the primary care setting and being less likely to receive preventative care, like a flu shot.

Implicit bias also exists within the healthcare system itself, which impacts how healthcare providers evaluate and treat women of color during the healthcare delivery process.¹ For example, healthcare professionals may dismiss symptoms and complaints of pain or discomfort due to associations made outside their conscious awareness, based on a person’s race or gender.

The other aspect affecting black maternal mortality (death) is the prevalence of underlying health conditions in black women during pregnancy and postpartum, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity, which is treatable at early stages.¹

How Can Women of Color Access Quality Care?

There are political initiatives that are significant to the access of quality care, such as the expansion of Medicaid. This initiative would help cover gaps in care from 60 days to 12 months postpartum, which is the period of time that black and brown mothers are at greatest risk of postpartum complications.

Often, transportation issues and poverty are barriers to accessing healthcare. If this is affecting your ability to receive care, ask your healthcare provider about telehealth, which is healthcare delivery through electronic means, such as a phone or computer.

Research and connect with culturally competent healthcare providers – such as doctors, nurse practitioners, midwives, doulas, lactation consultants and therapists – who have a reputation for comprehensive, quality care for people of all races and ethnicities.  Seek out culturally competent health education content online, as well resources in your local community. Visit Mommyato to get more information.

Know the Warning Signs of Pregnancy and Postpartum Related Problems

Chronic health conditions can put pregnant and postpartum women at higher risk for complications.  Problems can arise during pregnancy and up to a year after giving birth (postpartum). Get familiar with the warning signs as timely action can save your life.

Make an appointment with your healthcare provider if you have (at any time during pregnancy or postpartum):

  • swelling of the hands, feet or face
  • shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • heavy bleeding or bloody discharge
  • extreme fatigue.¹

If you don’t feel well, tell your healthcare provider. If you don’t feel that your healthcare provider is honoring your feelings, seek out another provider who will listen and take action to investigate further. Tell your partner or a loved one who can help advocate for you.

Two out of three pregnancy related deaths are preventable. Knowing the warning signs and seeking quality, timely care can save your life.¹ And remember, HEALTH IS A  RIGHT, not a privilege.


  1. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). April 9, 2021. Working together to reduce black maternal mortality.
  2. National Institutes of Health (NOH). August 12, 2021. NIH-funded study highlights stark disparities in maternal deaths.