African-American Women Remain More Likely to Die From Childbirth

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According to a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control African American Women are 3.2 times more likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth than Caucasian counterparts. The study also stated that African-American Infants are 2.4 times more likely to die from premature birth than Caucasian infants.

The World Heath Organization (WHO) officially defines death from pregnancy or childbirth or maternal mortality as “the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of the pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or termination.” WHO also defined preterm birth as “babies born alive before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed, with subcategories of extremely preterm (<28 weeks), very preterm (28 to <32 weeks), and moderate to late preterm (32 to 37< weeks).

The risk for maternal mortality has consistently been higher among African-American women than Caucasian women. According to, “Differences in Maternal Mortality Among Black and White Women –United States, 1990”, a study by the CDC in 1990 the maternal mortality rate for African-American Women was 18.6 deaths per 100,000, while it was no more than five for Caucasians. In 2010, the rate for maternal mortality for African-Americans rose to 34.8 per 100,000, while for Caucasian it was 11 per 100,000.

Maternal mortality occurs because of severe bleeding, infections, high blood pressure during pregnancy, and unsafe abortions.

In “NYC Women Dying in Childbirth At Alarming Rate, Report Shows” by Lauren Evans for the Gothamist C. Nicole Mason, the executive director of the Center for Research and Policy in Public Interest and author of the study, The New York Women’s Foundation: Your City and Your Foundation – March 2013, attributed the “that the spike in the maternal mortality rate among African American women in poor communities is largely based on three factors: Poor prenatal and postpartum care, higher rates of C-sections and most significantly, other health factors, like obesity. Forty percent of women who die from "maternal related complications" are overweight.”

Mason continued, “We really need to think about how women in poor communities are treated from the time they become pregnant until they deliver, and whether they're getting the health care they deserve,” she said.

Concludingly, although the United States spends $98 billion on hospitalization for pregnancy and childbirth, the country’s maternal mortality rate has doubled in the past 25 years. These statistics prove that the methods that are currently in place for healthcare for women are not working.

Tatiana M. Brown is a native of Washington, D.C. who is currently pursuing a Bachelors of Arts degree in Broadcast Journalism at Hofstra University. Follow her @TatianaMBrown, check out her website, or contact her at

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