Data shows pregnancy-related deaths more likely among black women

Addressing the higher mortality rate for pregnant black women

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - As a movement to address racism persists in the U.S., a spotlight has been put on racial disparities when it comes to health care -- specifically the high maternal mortality rate among black women.

The Center for Disease Control reported that between 2007 and 2016, pregnancy-related deaths were three times more likely among black women compared to white women in the U.S.

Nurse and Midwife Nikia Grayson with the CHOICES reproductive center in Memphis says that black women oftentimes lack access to health care.

“It’s not a race problem, it’s a racism problem,” she said.

The lack of access to health care can impact the maternal mortality rate.

“If they have the public insurance, Medicaid, or Tenncare here in Tennessee, then their choices are limited,” Grayson said.

But Grayson also said there is a problem with treatment too, and that racial bias on the part of healthcare professionals can also be partly why there is a higher maternal mortality rate for black women.

"A lot of times when they do seek out help, they're not listened to, they're not believed," Grayson explained.

Grayson said one way health care professionals can try to fix this issue is by actually taking into account what their patients say about their bodies.

"We have to kind of unlearn some of the things that we learned in practicing medicine, which is that patients are not good historians, that they don't really know what they want, that they don't really know what they need," she said.

Grayson also added that black women and women of color often delay seeking medical care for fear of how they will be treated. She said that being treated by professionals they can relate to can help eliminate that fear.

"What people are looking for when they look for care, is that they're looking for people that look like them," Grayson explained.

It is why, she says, CHOICES is making an effort to train black and brown midwives in the Mid-South.

“We can educate and train more black and brown midwives to be able to go back out and serve their communities,” said Grayson.

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