Pregnancy Loss in the Black Community

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Our maternal death rates in the United States are disproportionate in the Black community. These increasing rates are staggering for a developed country with access to research and medical advances. Statistics are unrelated to socioeconomic status for women of color. A recent study linked climate change (heat exposure), air pollution and increased risk for pre-term birth, low birth weight and stillbirth among Black mothers and people with asthma.

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a presentation offered by the EMBRACE clinical team at the UCSF Maternal Mental Health conference. EMBRACE offers multi-disciplinary group prenatal care for Black families. I was inspired by the work Andrea Jackson, MD, Markita Mays, LCSW and Melinda Fowler, CNM are doing to address the inequities in our medical system and our community.

I am also grateful for the work RTZ HOPE is doing to increase awareness around pregnancy loss in the Black community. RTZ HOPE is offering webinars to educate and provide accessible support and resources for bereaved parents and the providers who serve them.

More Statistics

The Causes

  1. Women of color have more limited opportunity. Black women are more likely to live in communities that have fewer educational resources and employment opportunities. This is said to be due to historical segregation through housing and education policies.

  2. Women of color face accumulated stress. Black women are more likely to be affected by the accumulated stress of discrimination regardless of socioeconomic status. For women of color who attain a higher socioeconomic status, pregnancy-related outcomes are worse than those of white women at lower socioeconomic levels.

  3. Implicit bias in health care. Disparate treatment of mothers of color may also play a role in worse birth outcomes. Implicit bias in health care delivery may prevent women of color from receiving sufficient patient education in the prenatal period about risks to maternal and fetal health.

  4. Access to health care. Women in poverty experience more challenging life circumstances. They are more likely to have limited access to health care services, adequate food, transportation, and housing.

  5. System racism. The social and economic forces of institutional racism set Black women on distinct life tracks, with long-term consequences for their health and the health of their future children. The experience of systematic racial bias—not race itself—compromises health.

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