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We’re in this together: tending to Black maternal health

We’re in this together: tending to Black maternal health

Being pregnant, giving birth and holding your new baby close to your chest should be a season of excitement and joy for all parents. Yet, for many Black women, this time of celebration also comes with cause for concern. Black women and babies face significantly poorer maternal and infant health outcomes, including an increased risk of death. The maternal mortality rate, or how often women die from pregnancy-related issues, is approximately three times greater for Black women than for non-Hispanic white women. To find solutions to these disparities and to give Black mothers and babies the care they deserve, the community needs to come together.

April 11-17 marks the annual Black Maternal Health Week. The week offers an opportunity for pregnant Black women, new mothers, healthcare providers and community members to come together, show some love and take action to improve Black maternal health.

Maternal and infant health is tied to community health

Addressing social determinants of health is essential to improving maternal health outcomes for Black women. These are nonmedical factors that affect health, such as:

  • Access to healthcare
  • Employment opportunities
  • Environmental factors, such as safe housing and transportation
  • Equitable quality education
  • Social relationships

Historical and structural racism often causes predominantly Black communities to have fewer resources and protective factors. We see the impact of these factors in the fact that Black women of childbearing age are more likely to have chronic health conditions than other women.

Having one or more chronic health conditions increases the chance of pregnancy-related complications. It can also increase the likelihood that medical interventions, such as a Cesarean section or C-section, will be used. Plus, babies born to birthing parents with chronic conditions may be more likely to be born prematurely or have health issues as they grow.

Still, history doesn’t need to dictate the future. We can improve Black maternal and infant health by advocating for:

  • Access to community resources
  • Community-based healthcare education
  • Expanded healthcare options
  • Increased access to insurance and parental benefits

Pregnancy, childbirth and parenting education makes a difference

The average infant mortality rate in the U.S. in 2020 was 5.4 per 1,000 live births. For Black infants, the rate was 10.38 per 1000 live births. Black infants are also more likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome than other infants in the U.S. Access to community-based pregnancy and childbirth classes, such as those offered through Touro, are essential to improve maternal healthcare outcomes for Black mothers and babies.

In the U.S., Black mothers are less likely to breastfeed than white or Hispanic mothers. They also have less access to breastfeeding education and support. Breastfeeding can improve infant nutrition, encourage bonding and lower the risk of several health conditions for both the baby and mother. Breastfeeding classes and related services can improve black maternal and infant health.

Proactive maternal healthcare leads to healthy babies, families and communities

Women with more birthing options tend to have better maternal and infant health outcomes. Black women are less likely than white women to be informed about birthing options. Similarly, many hospitals that predominantly serve Black patients offer fewer birth options and support services than those that treat a more diverse population or primarily white patients.

Full access to birthing options includes knowledge about:

  • Available childbirth interventions and their risks and benefits
  • Birthplace options, such as a birthing center, hospital or at home
  • How to create a birthing plan
  • The role of healthcare providers, including doulas and midwives

At Touro, where babies come from in New Orleans, we believe that healthcare is for everybody. We know that Black women often face unique barriers and have specific concerns about pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum care. Through our classes, provider visits, supportive services and virtual tour, we hope to make every woman feel at home. You deserve the resources, options and peace of mind needed to be comfortable and confident with your maternity care so you can focus on celebrating your new bundle of joy.

Learn more about Touro pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum services.