Posted on January 23, 2024 in 2024 February, Lifestyle and Wellness

Equity in Every Birth

According to the CDC, over 80% of pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. between 2017 and 2019 were determined to be preventable.

The disparities in maternal healthcare outcomes between Black and white women in the United States are staggering. Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women, according to the CDC. With alarming statistics like this, Black maternal healthcare in the United States is a critical area of concern for Black women and healthcare providers alike.

One of the primary healthcare challenges facing Black women during pregnancy is access to quality healthcare. Many factors contribute to disparities in access:

  • Geographic Disparities: Black women are more likely to live in areas with limited healthcare infrastructure, which makes it difficult to access obstetric care services and prenatal care.
  • Socioeconomic Factors: Socioeconomic disparities often restrict access to healthcare. Lower-income Black women may lack health insurance, transportation, and childcare support, making it difficult to attend appointments and receive timely care.
  • Lack of Providers: The shortage of healthcare providers, particularly in rural and underserved communities, can lead to long wait times and insufficient follow-up care for pregnant Black women. Since January 2010, more than 100 rural hospitals have closed, with a disproportionate share occurring in the South. Between 2004 and 2014, 179 rural counties lost or closed their hospital obstetric services.

Another challenge is ensuring Black women receive unbiased high-quality care during pregnancy and childbirth. Healthcare providers undergo implicit bias training to address the unconscious stereotypes and attitudes that may impact their clinical decision-making. Cultural competency and providing patient-centered care that allows a Black woman to have a say in their healthcare decisions are also essential to providing high-quality care.

How do we address disparities in Black maternal healthcare?

There are several evidence-based solutions, many of which are covered by most insurance plans or supplemental services offered by employers (think Maven and Pomelo):

  • Prenatal Care Programs: Expanding access to comprehensive prenatal care programs that offer education, support, and medical care throughout the pregnancy, helping to identify and address potential issues early. Maternity care is considered “essential health benefits,” so all qualified health plans must cover the care.
  • Telehealth Services: Telehealth can improve access to care, particularly in rural and underserved areas. Offering virtual prenatal and postpartum care can help bridge geographical gaps. More and more insurance carriers are offering telehealth visits for your typical office visit fee, and some have specialty maternity services.
  • Doula and Midwifery Support: Doulas and midwives can provide additional support during pregnancy and childbirth. They often offer emotional, physical, and informational assistance, which can lead to better outcomes.
  • Mental Health Services: Providing mental health support, such as counseling and therapy, can help prevent and manage stress, anxiety, and depression.
  • Targeted Education: Education campaigns aimed at improving the health literacy of Black women can empower them to advocate for their health and make informed decisions.

Collaboration among healthcare providers, public health agencies, and community organizations is essential to decrease the disparities in maternal healthcare. Ultimately, the focus should be on providing equitable, high-quality care to all pregnant women, regardless of their race or background.