I remember hearing about Serena Williams having complications that could have resulted in her death, following the birth of her daughter. I remember thinking, how tragic, I am glad Serena was persistent. I remember not giving it much thought after that. Periodically I would hear about pregnancy and childbirth-related deaths being high in the United States, but my pregnancy experiences, coupled with my career obligations, meant I didn’t tune in. After all, I was well past the baby having stage and had not given much thought to my daughter’s having children one day.
I am not sure when I came out of the fog, but when I did, I was completely blown away by the real danger that exists for women that want to experience motherhood. Once out of the fog, I became consumed with reading as much as I could about women’s deaths related to childbirth. In a state of disbelief, every time I would read something else that made me gasp, I would read it out loud to my 21-year-old daughter and say, “I just don’t know if I want you all to have children.”
Before that moment, I always saw my daughters having children, if they chose to, as the natural progression of things. When I talked about my future grandkids, I talked about coming to visit, spoil them, and return them to their mothers. I never honestly considered the danger that my daughters would be in if they opted to experience the joy of motherhood. I took it for granted that women in the United States were receiving the best maternity care there was to offer in the world. NOT TRUE!
To make matters worse, everything I have read says that because my daughters are African-American, my level of concern should be even higher if they choose to have children. According to the Centers for Disease Control, black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes. Put another way; a black woman is 22 percent more likely to die from heart disease than a white woman and 71 percent more likely to perish from cervical cancer. But here is the statistic that made me almost fall out of my chair- a black woman is 243 percent more likely to die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes than a white woman. HOW IN THE WORLD IS THIS POSSIBLE?
In Living With Lupus, my 21-year-old talked about the importance of knowing your body and not being afraid to advocate for yourself. This is continued proof that you must be persistent and insistent when it comes to your health. Gone are the days, if they ever existed, of you putting your complete trust in the hands of a health care provider. It is imperative that we advocate for ourselves and not worry about offending health care providers that are ignoring us when we tell them that something is wrong.
If you are anything like me and have been in a fog, here are some alarming statistics that I hope will wake you up.
- The U.S. has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the developed world.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60% of maternal deaths are preventable.
- On average, twice a day, a new mother will die.
- The United States has some of the most advanced obstetric and emergency care found on earth but ranks only 47th for maternal mortality rate globally.
- Our nation spends $3.3 trillion on health care each year.
I leave you with this brief clip about Kira Johnson’s untimely death. She was a 39-year-old vibrant, and healthy woman that went in for a cesarean, bringing her second son into the world. Following the procedure, Kira complained and experienced symptoms that indicated something was wrong. It took 10 hours for Kira, and her husband’s concerns to be addressed. By that time, it was too late. Three liters of blood were found in her abdomen. Kira Johnson’s husband and new born baby went home without her.
So far, I haven’t found many answers as to why the rates of death are so high for women, especially African-American women, in the United States. I have a few thoughts, of course. Whatever the reasons, I hope that helping to shed light on this serious problem will help to save lives.