The number of women who are dying from and during childbirth is rising nationwide, with mortality rates disproportionately higher for Black and Hispanic women.
“It was a fear of will me and my baby make it out of this situation alive,” said Chelsea Lawyer as she described her birthing experience with her first child in 2014.
She said her OB-GYN was out of town when her water broke so she had to see an on-call physician for delivery.
“My natural birth was thrown out of the window, I was just sitting there having contractions and not progressing,” said Lawyer. “Like while I’m pushing of like…the on-call doctor was discussing my body in a less than positive way, while I’m sitting there, in my most vulnerable state.”
Fortunately, Lawyer is alive to share her story. But for many minority women that isn’t always the case.
“Too many black women have died, too many people period! Too many birthing people period have died. One is too many,” Lawyer said.
A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report shows 861 women died from maternal causes in 2020 with Black women dying at nearly three times the rate as white women.
Dr. Leonard Weather said some in the healthcare view Black women differently. He said families should feel supported by their OB-GYN.
“Make sure you understand that your doctor cares for you because if he or she doesn’t act like they care, frankly, they probably don’t so you may need to get another doctor,” said Dr. Weather, OBGYN in Shreveport, Louisiana.
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President Biden’s FY22 budget request includes more than $200 million for implicit bias training for health care providers. It would also create state pregnancy medical home programs.
In addition to this, Lawyer believes doctors can improve trends by simply listening to Black women.
“When we tell you that we’re in pain, it’s not for you to decide whether or not that’s true. When we tell you what’s happening, believe us and go from there,” said Lawyer. “It should not always be a situation of me having to advocate.”
Because of her experience, Lawyer works with Being the Village, a support group for Black mothers in Washington state and virtually to mothers nationwide.
“I think for Black women, there is a uniqueness to our experience and so to be able to share that amongst a group of other Black women, and as we like to call it a space of no apologies,” said Lawyer. “You’re able to come as your full self with other women who look like you who share the same sort of experiences and you don’t have to worry about that judgment.”
The Biden administration is also pushing for states to provide continuous Medicaid coverage for 12 months postpartum to prevent gaps in health insurance after birth.
The White House says currently states are only required to provide coverage for 60 days postpartum.
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