September 22, 2009

Black Maternal Health: A Legacy and a Future

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(WOMENSENEWS)--The logo for this series is meant to represent a key idea: Maternal health is all about embracing the mother.

But in the United States, African American women confront striking statistics as they form partnerships, become parents and care for their children. American women are three-to-six times more likely to die during pregnancy and the six weeks after delivery than U.S. white and Latina women. That holds true across various levels of income and education. In fact, some studies find middle-income and highly educated African American women at higher risk.

Black women form 12 percent of the United States' female population but represent nearly half of maternal mortalities.

Compared to any other group of women, black women are least likely to breastfeed a child exclusively at six months, a government target for promoting healthier children. Consistent nursing also reduces a woman's risk of brImproving Healthy Birth Outcomes for All Childreneast and ovarian cancers--protection especially important to African American women who are more vulnerable for these types of cancers.

How to explain these pregnancy experiences? The stress of living with racism--from workplace discrimination to maltreatment in maternity wards -- is now a leading hypothesis.

Women's eNews intends to cover this story over a period of years as we use the art and science of journalism to document and explore many complex and interlocking elements. Tradition, history, personal experience, institutional bias, corporate interests and health insurance procedures will all be examined. With hope, our work will contribute to a society where more expectant mothers can experience the joy of giving birth to a healthy infant.

Women's eNews thanks the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for proving the support for this series.


For more information:

Breastfeeding Medicine


Click through to read Women's eNews series on black maternal health series from previous years.

One thought on “Black Maternal Health: A Legacy and a Future

  1. I have often seen billboards stating that the most dangerous place for a child is in the womb of an African-American mother. I’ve seen it written on posters by pro-life activists seeking to make a case for abortion being racist- citing various statistics regarding race and abortion rates. While it is easy for pro-lifers to chastise women (specifically non-white women given the social and institutional structures that place non-white women at a lower social location than white women) seeking abortions, race has rarely been brought to the forefront of this issue. Statistics are easy to hide behind- but the privilege of not having to understand the social, economic, and political disenfranchisement of non-white women is unacceptable.
    Beyond just abortion rates, the stark differences in the mortality rates of mothers and their correlation to race needs to be examined. Race matters. In all aspects of life. Citing racism as a possible explanation for such differences is a noble first step in delving further into the study of the sociopolitical locations of non-white women. Specifically non-white potential mothers.