What is Black Maternal Health Week and why is it important?
Updated: Sep 8
Many people, especially in the United States, are vastly unaware of the differences in maternal care for Black women in this country, but the statistics are staggering.
For example, according to the CDC, every year in this country, 700 women die as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications, while Black women were disproportionately affected by a rate of 55.3 deaths for every 100,000 live births, compared to 19.1 deaths per 100,000 and 18.2 deaths per 100,000 for White and Hispanic women, respectively.
We have an infant mortality rate of 5.6 per 1000 births, with a health disparity among Black babies at a rate of 10.8 deaths per 1000 births. Black women are 3-5 times more likely to have a maternal death than White women in this country. Black mothers are also more likely to suffer from perinatal mood disorders without any clinical help.
When it comes to breastfeeding rates among Black women, 75.5% of Black babies are breastfed as compared to 85% of White and Latinx babies, and had a significantly lower rate of exclusive breastfeeding rates at the 3 months than did White infants. Hospitals in areas with higher numbers of Black residents were less likely to provide maternity care practices that support breastfeeding.
Black women are more likely to report using contraceptives that are less effective or even no contraception at all, when compared to White women, and lack necessary reproductive health overall, leaving the risk factor of pregnancy extremely high. Black women are also 22% more likely to receive lower quality health care than White women and are more subject to discrimination in that care.
Black Maternal Health Week is important and was finally recognized on a federal level just last year, in 2021. ‘The Black Mamas Matter Alliance is a national network of organizations and leaders from maternal health, human rights, and reproductive justice fields, believing that every woman deserves equal access to quality healthcare’ and are the founders of Black Maternal Health Week. This week is dedicated to educating and advocating for Black Mamas.
We urge everyone to learn about the issues, become involved in elevating Black voices and experiences, and contact your local, state, and federal representatives about these issues that are affecting so many people in this country every year. We need to do better and these things need to change.