A call to action: Tackling Black maternal mortality

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

By Amie Knowles

April 15, 2024

Death rates skyrocketed for one group by 60% between 2019 and 2021—and it wasn’t because of COVID.

Maternal mortality refers to women who died due to a pregnancy-related complication. The term extends to one year after the pregnancy ends.

Women in the United States experience maternal mortality at significantly higher rates than other developed countries. Per 100,000 births in 2018, more than 17 US mothers lost their lives. That’s a higher rate than Italy, Spain, Japan, and Australia combined.

For Black women, the death rate is even more significant. Black Maternal Health Week, which runs from Apr. 11-17 this year, seeks to bring awareness to the disparities and fight for solutions. The Black Mamas Matter Alliance takes action against the injustices. This year, the group called for “reproductive justice”—that’s the theme of Black Maternal Health Week 2024.

Here’s why the awareness week is so important: Although more than 80% of pregnancy-related deaths nationwide are preventable, the White House reported that Black ladies are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. The Biden administration also noted that the startling statistic was “in no small part because of a long history of systemic racism and bias.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) listed multiple contributing factors to racial disparities in pregnant women, including:

  • Variation in quality healthcare
  • Underlying chronic conditions
  • Structural racism
  • Implicit bias

There are a multitude of ways to get involved and become part of the solution. One is by writing to state and federal lawmakers about the changes you’d like to see. Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat who recently announced his bid for reelection this November, continues to fight for maternal health.

Last year, Kaine introduced federal legislation to aid both maternal and infant health outcomes called the Mothers and Newborns Success Act. The act sought to:

  • Strengthen support for women during and after pregnancy
  • Expand maternal health research and data collection
  • Ensure women were better matched with birthing facilities that met their specific needs

The legislation also highlighted the maternal mortality rate for people of color.

Another way to get involved is by posting on social media using the hashtag #BMHW24 (which stands for Black Maternal Health Week 2024). Action steps for the movement include highlighting the important work of Black doulas, amplifying the word about reproductive justice, sharing news about Black maternal health in your own neighborhood, and more.

  • Amie Knowles

    Amie is Dogwood's community editor. She has been in journalism for several years, winning multiple awards from the Virginia Press Association for news and features content. A lifelong Virginia resident, her work has appeared in the Martinsville Bulletin, Danville Register & Bee and NWNC Magazine.



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