According to a CNN report, deaths from pregnancy and childbirth have doubled in the United States in the past 20 years. This development received a harsh response from the human rights group, Amnesty International, which called the findings “scandalous and disgraceful”. As if this information isn’t bad enough, it gets worse. It also points out that most deaths and complications in pregnancy and childbirth happen among minorities and women in poverty. Hold on to your seat because I’m not done. Yes, my readers there’s more to this and it get even more abominable. White women have a mortality rate of 9.5 per 100,000 pregnancies, while Black women have a death rate of 32.7 per 100,000 pregnancies.
Black women make up 12% of the population and yet we account for 50% of maternal deaths in the United States. Why are we not screaming from this mountain tops about this? Where is the uproar from our community about these shameful, damaging statistics about our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, our aunts – ourselves? The lack of proper and timely medical care due to insufficient or no health coverage was the overwhelming factor in higher rates of maternal deaths in the Black community.
However, my sisters, let me impart to you yet another culprit that is on the rise and gaining quite a bit of momentum in our community. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for pregnant women to schedule the birth of their babies no differently than they set an appointment to their favorite hair salon. A date is set. The pregnant woman is induced and an astonishing 34% of Black women will opt for a c-section over a vaginal birth reports the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Center for Health Statistics.
The rise in the number of c-sections performed to all women in the United States has received severe criticism and negative publicity globally and nationally in recent years. This disturbing trend has increased to 33%, making c-section the most common operation in the US. When that 33% is broken down even farther, once again is the realization that Black women are at a higher risk of maternal death since 34% are delivering babies through c-section compared to 32% for White women and 30% for Hispanic women. C-sections are major surgery. To opt for such a choice when there isn’t a medically necessary need is to willingly put place one’s body in a high risk position. The implications of such a choice could be anything from infertility to death. Even when there is a medically necessary need for a c-section, 10-15% of these women can successfully have vaginal births after c-sections (VBAC) if they chose too, states the World Health Organization (WHO) and yet only one third will attempt a VBAC.
Black women we need to blow the trumpet on this situation. Sound the siren loud and clear. We live in one of the most technologically advanced societies in the world and yet of all the industrialized nations we have the highest rates of maternal death. We have the ability to take control of our health and be proactive about our well-being. The time is now for the screaming from the mountaintops to begin. Rise up my sisters. Rise up.