The Death of Black Mothers in the U.S.

In today’s society, industrialized countries such as Great Britain, France and Germany, have put specific systems in place, such as maternal mortality review processes, that routinely monitor maternal mortality and develop ways to prevent these tragedies from occurring. These systems have greatly aided these countries and thus led to lower rates of maternal mortality in these countries. On the other hand, the United States has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality among developed nations. In fact, maternal mortality rates have increased in the U.S. since 1990. And, one can say, unsurprisingly, the majority of women dying are black women. 


Black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related issues than white women in the U.S regardless of income and status. Additionally, in New York City, black women are 12 times more likely to die from these issues than white women. Babies born to black mothers in the U.S. are often much smaller and lighter than a healthy baby. This crisis was brought to the U.N. in 2010 by Monica Simpson who testified before the UN Committee on the Elimination of racial Discrimination, stating that the US has violated the international human rights treaty by not addressing the black maternal mortality crisis in the US. Since then, hardly anything has been done by the U.S. to bring about changes to the healthcare system that would decrease the maternal mortality rate.


There are many factors that play a role in this, including, systemic and societal racism. Often, physicians are excused from the conversation regarding maternal mortality because they are seen as all-knowing in regard to medicine and medical procedures. In the eyes of many, physicians can do no wrong. However, many physicians are known to disregard the questions and feelings of black pregnant women, sometimes, unconsciously feeding into the erroneous stereotype that black women have a higher pain tolerance than white women. They also assume that black women have thicker skin that white woman. Moreover, Black women have to face stereotypes and racism outside the healthcare system in their daily lives which takes a toll on their bodies. All together, these harmful stereotypes and stressful environments create a lot of physiological stress, such as hypertension and gestational diabetes, in black women which leads to high rates of mortality. 


The U.S. is failing black mothers. For a country that spends more on healthcare than any other developing country, this is a disgrace. Racial disparities in the healthcare system need to be addressed in order for changes to be made.