What you need to know about the Black maternal health crisis

April 13, 2023 / Molina Healthcare

What you need to know about the Black maternal health crisis

Black Maternal Health Week takes place every year from April 11-17 to bring attention to the issues that contribute to Black women having more health complications and higher mortality rates. 

Maternal mortality rates in 2021 were among the highest they had ever been. Based on a new report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, 1,205 people died from maternal causes in the United States in 2021. African American women have a 2.6 times higher chance of a maternal death than White women. These pregnancy-related deaths can happen during pregnancy or within 42 days of birth.

Health disparities

Significant health disparities are contributing to the higher maternal mortality rates for Black women. Evidence shows that access to quality health care, pre-existing medical problems and societal issues such as racism impact the quality of prenatal care Black women receive.

Health conditions like diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease are common within Black women. These chronic health conditions can further increase pregnancy risks. Access to quality health care during or and after pregnancy is also crucial in reducing the risk of pregnancy and childbirth complications.

If you plan to get pregnant or are pregnant, here a few things that can help you.

#1: Prioritize your prenatal care. 

Prenatal care helps you have a healthy pregnancy. Regular prenatal care throughout your pregnancy lowers your risk of potential problems. Once you find out you are pregnant, make an appointment with your OB/GYN. You can go to any OB/GYN doctor in your Primary Care Physicians (PCP) network. To find a doctor, use our online provider search tool. Remember that your pregnancy matters. 

#2: Always carry your maternal notes. 

Asking questions and understanding the importance of prenatal care can help save your life. At your first prenatal visit, be sure to talk to your doctor about:

  • Medical problems
  • Blood pressure
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Breast and cervical exams
  • Date of last menstrual cycle
  • Birth control
  • Hospital stays
  • Allergies
  • Family medical history

You will get maternity notes after your first prenatal visit. They will help track your care and baby’s development during your pregnancy. Any health care professional that you talk to will have a full overview of your pregnancy. Always keep these notes with you.

Prenatal visits to a health care provider usually include: 

  • A physical exam
  • Weight checks
  • Urine sample

#3: Call your health care provider right away if something does not feel right.

Look out for things like:

  • Bad headaches
  • Swelling of your hands and face
  • Trouble breathing
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding or discharge
  • Feeling more tired than normal

#4: After giving birth, schedule your postpartum check up with your provider.

The care you receive after giving birth is just as important as your prenatal care. Your postpartum visit is one of the most important things to do after having your baby. Be sure to schedule your postpartum checkup anytime between a week to 12 weeks after giving birth.

Staying healthy and active can help you care for your baby. Feeling sad, irritated or emotional is common. If you are experiencing the baby blues, you can:

  • Talk with a friend or your partner about how you feel. 
  • Get some rest. When the baby is asleep, that is a great time to catch up on some sleep. 
  • Take time for yourself. Step out of the house at least once a day. Ask your partner to care for the baby while you go on a walk. Walks can help you destress. 
  • Search for a support group for new mothers. New mom groups give you the opportunity to share your experiences, meet other parents and receive support from maternal-infant educators. 

Having a strong support system can help facilitate your transition to motherhood. Call your provider if you continue to feel sad. Don’t hesitate to get help.


Category: Women's Health