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Op-Ed – Giving birth while black should not be a death sentence

By Allison Bryant, Makeeba McCreary, and Elsie Taveras

In 2020, Black women accounted for one-third of maternal deaths. This is a mortality rate that was nearly three times that of white women. Giving birth while Black should not be a death sentence.

As the nation marks Black Maternal Health Week, founded by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance to deepen the national conversation about Black maternal health, it is important to recognize the urgency to curb this unacceptable but persistent disparity by prioritizing community-driven care solutions.

The circumstances Black people face are not simply a matter of an economic or education system, but of a system that reinforces inequitable and discriminatory practices. There’s no clearer example than that of Serena Williams, who despite being one of the world’s greatest athletes and a successful businesswoman, faced life-threatening failures in her care in the time surrounding childbirth. In her own words, Williams said, “Being heard and appropriately treated was the difference between life or death for me; I know those statistics would be different if the medical establishment listened to every Black woman’s experience.”

Improving maternal health outcomes for Black women, and for all communities of color, will require addressing the numerous contributors to health inequities, like worse cesarean delivery rates, breastfeeding rates, and rates of delivery complications,including the many risk factors perpetuated by structural racism, such as nutritional, housing, and transportation barriers. Although it may seem simple on its face, parents should be listened to and receive personalized, respectful, and easily accessible care that is built on autonomy, justice, and healthy alliances.

Read full text in The Boston Globe.