The maternal health and well-being of all mothers, particularly black and brown mothers, is under attack. The CDC defines health disparities as the preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence or opportunities to achieve optimal health that are experienced by socially disadvantaged populations.
At Woodus Obstetrics & Gynecology, we recognize other POC experience disparities in maternal health outcomes, however black maternal health has been marginalized far too long. We refuse to be complicit by remaining silent.
It’s not: Only Black Mamas Matter,
It’s not: Black Mamas Matter More/Most,
It’s: Black Mamas Matter, Too.
Social determinants of health play a role. These social inequalities include differential access to the following: healthy food, clean drinking water, safe neighborhoods, good schools, decent jobs, reliable transportation, quality care providers & facilities/insurance. Increased rates of chronic illnesses, such as obesity, hypertension & diabetes, are also an important factor.
All of the above are amplified by a healthcare system rooted in systematic racism & the unconscious bias implicit within that system. Over time, the chronic stress & associated accelerated aging, coined “weathering” that comes from the daily navigation of this system as a black woman in American society takes a toll that has been shown in several studies to be a contributing factor in adverse black maternal outcomes. In fact, it has been suggested that “weathering” may be the most significant factor in poor maternal outcomes. This system often leaves us feeling devalued & disrespected by medical providers. This system often dismisses our concerns, particularly in regards to pain. Lack of diversity often leaves us feeling alienated. Black females represent only 2% of physicians. Furthermore, education & class have not been shown to make one exempt. The concept of “weathering” has been demonstrated on the cellular level. In a 2010 study by Arline Geronimus, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, telomeres (chromosomal markers of aging) of black women in their 40s & 50s appeared 7.5 years older on average than those of white women.
Failure to account for the early onset increased health vulnerabilities of black women regardless of education & social economic class leads to poor maternal outcomes.
Let’s take a closer look.
The maternal mortality ratio (MMR) is defined as the number of maternal deaths/100,000 live births. In the United States this ratio increased from 16.9 > 26.4/100,000 from 1990 to 2015. Meanwhile, the global MMR decreased by 30%. The United States has the highest MMR among developed countries.
When it comes to disparities in women’s healthcare, the following details how black women compare to their white counterparts.
Dr. Woodus, a reproductive justice advocate, established Woodus Obstetrics & Gynecology to further her commitment to provide ALL women with the rights, respect and resources necessary to thrive in every aspect of their healthcare.
Success in improving black maternal health outcomes requires a partnership. Do not take a back seat. Be an active participant.
Enough is enough.
Woodus Obstetrics & Gynecology
Helping you control your birth story.
Sources: CDC, ACOG, SMFM, SSM, Propublica, NPR