Black Maternal Health Week Is a Time To Recall Our Power

Black birthing people now face roughly the same maternal mortality risk as white women did in the late 1950s. Perhaps we should fight this battle the way our grandparents did.

image of a Black pregnant woman stretching outdoors

In the late 1950s, when my parents were small children, white women faced roughly the same risk of dying as a result of childbirth as I do today.

And, though advances in medical technology have affected rates of maternal mortality in the past, this disparity exists because of ingrained and systemized bias, not human or technological fallibility. Black birthing people have always died at 2-3 times the rate that white birthing people have and the CDC estimates that 80% of these deaths are preventable

We can continue to study it, but all of the data points to what Black people already know—systemic racism is killing us.

It is a fact that is not mitigated with increased income or health insurance coverage but based on color. And outcomes are worse—from pregnancy to child-rearing—in states that are historically racist, like Georgia and Texas.

So, what can we do?

1. If you are a pregnant person who is insured or a recipient of Medicaid, research all of your options for OBGYNs via your healthcare website. Many of the best providers to seek out for pre- and postnatal care aren’t immediately Googleable.

2. Do not ever attend appointments or seek out medical care alone. Find a friend or relative who is available to help or hire a doula if you’re able to. If you're not a pregnant person, be the friend or relative who attends these appointments.

3. Create a birth plan that includes advocates and witnesses, people who will fight for you in case of an emergency. Feel free to find another provider or visit another medical center if you feel unsafe in any way.

4. After giving birth, be open about experiences with doctors and medical staff. Share the wealth of your wisdom with other pregnant people. 

This is the way our parents and grandparents battled systemic injustice—together, in community.

Celeste Little

Senior Editor

Parents uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. What You Need to Know About Maternal Mortality, Planned Parenthood, 2019.