Serena Williams has been pretty open about the life-threatening medical complications she faced after giving birth to her daughter Olympia in 2017. She had four back-to-back surgeries in the span of a week and suffered several blood clots that would have killed her if she didn’t receive immediate treatment. In an essay for Elle, the tennis star shed light on the stark reality that Black women are three times more likely to die after childbirth than their white counterparts. It is for reasons like these that Williams and so many other Black women have to become their own advocates. maternal mortality
Williams says giving birth became “a test for how loud and how often I would have to call out before I was finally heard”.
Why is maternal mortality so high for Black women?
According to a recent report from the National Center for Health Statistics, the maternal mortality rate for non-Hispanic Black women in 2020 was 55.3 deaths per 100,000 live births — almost 3 times the maternal mortality rate for white women.
And the pandemic has only caused that rate to increase. The maternal mortality rate for Black women increased by just over 20 percent from 2019 to 2020, while the rate for white women did not increase significantly, according to reports.
“I do believe that the pandemic has exacerbated inequities and I think these data from the National Center for Health Statistics are alarming,” Isabel Morgan, a UNC doctoral student focusing on postpartum care, says. “They do in some ways suggest that the pandemic could have contributed to an increase in deaths.”
Many factors may contribute to these inequities in maternal health, including structural racism, access to care, how women are treated when they receive care and risk of complications, Morgan notes.
So how exactly do you become your advocate and ensure that you are getting adequate care?
Here are seven things you can do.
“A lot of the research around maternal mortality, especially among Black women and people capable of reproduction, suggests that most maternal deaths are preventable,” says Raegan McDonald-Mosley, M.D., MPH, a board-certified ob-gyn and CEO of Power to Decide.
“Really thinking about your plan for your care if something goes wrong, especially after delivery, and how you’re going to get to the place that you need to get to with the high-quality care is critically important.”
Know your family history
“If you are able to procure records from other facilities where you were treated, that’s great information for the physician,” says Kecia Gaither, M.D., an ob-gyn in New York City. “Also, have a list of your medications, along with dosages and how long