African American Women and Their Disproportionate Number of Maternal Mortalities

As recent as 2015, for every 100,000 live births in the United States there were 26.4 maternal mortalities annually. This is the highest rate of fatalities among developed nations. Among these fatalities, there is a disproportionate number of deaths among African American mothers who are three to four times as likely to die during childbirth or during the postpartum period. Even more tragically, almost 60% of maternal deaths are preventable when basic medical care is administered by their doctors, nurses, or other healthcare providers. The leading causes of maternal deaths among African Americans are complications related to preeclampsia, eclampsia, and cardiovascular disease. All of these conditions can and should be monitored by the attending doctors or other healthcare staff to prevent otherwise avoidable injuries and deaths.

Factors That Contribute to African American Maternal Mortalities

Avoidable maternal mortalities in the United States is statistically high among all classes of women. However, black American women are particularly at risk because of genetic factor as well as health system failures and societal disenfranchisement. The result is a higher than average poor health outcome and excessively high maternal mortality among African American mothers as compared to white mothers. Comparisons between the two groups result in the following scenarios:

·         On average, African American women are more likely to not have adequate health insurance to cover costs related to pregnancy, birth, prenatal and postpartum care.

·         On average, African American women suffer from a higher rate of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. These chronic health conditions are often preventable and can lead to serious or fatal complications related to childbirth.

·         On average, African American women are three times more likely to develop tumors in the uterus (fibroids) which can lead to postpartum hemorrhaging which is often fatal. Though white women may develop fibroids, they are usually slower growing and develop when the woman is older.

·         On average, African American women present symptoms of preeclampsia earlier in their pregnancies than white women. Preeclampsia involves high blood pressure which can lead to pregnancy complications which can be fatal if the woman’s healthcare provider does not provide adequate medical treatment.

·         On average, African American women’s bodies’ age faster than white women’s bodies because of chronic stress associated with lifelong discrimination and overall socioeconomic disadvantages. As a result, pregnancy among African American women can be riskier at younger ages as compared to white women.

·         More African American women live in the southern states of the United States, and in those states there is less expanded Medicaid coverage. As a result, many women who earn too much money for traditional Medicaid coverage do not earn enough money to purchase Affordable Care Act marketplace insurance. As a result, they cannot afford adequate health coverage which leads to maternal-related injuries and fatalities due to complications.

The failure to provide adequate healthcare to African American mothers throughout their pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum period is directly connected to unacceptably high rates of injuries and fatalities. To learn about legal options for recovering damages, families should contact our office for a free consultation with our maternal health lawyer.