While many people think that maternal death in childbirth is largely a historical phenomenon, in many cases, this is strikingly untrue. Mothers in the United States have the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world, and there is a particularly concerning racial disparity affecting black women. Black women in Texas and across the country are three to four times more likely than white women to die or be severely injured due to pregnancy and childbirth complications.
In New York City, black mothers are a full 12 times more likely to die than white mothers. It is also notable that this racial disparity in maternal mortality continues despite income differences. In fact, black college graduates are more likely to suffer severe birth complications than white women who did not graduate from high school.
Experts have pointed to a number of factors rooted in racism that lead to these disturbing outcomes. Social inequalities like lack of access to safe jobs, reliable transportation and health insurance are a key factor. Since black women are more likely to be uninsured, they may start prenatal care later and lose coverage post-partum. In addition, many black women have access to less well-funded hospitals. However, even wealthy black women face unconscious bias in the medical system: Studies have repeatedly shown that black women’s pain and medical complaints are dismissed or taken less seriously.
Racism, even of the unconscious kind, can have devastating consequences when it plays a role in medical mistakes. Regardless of the motivation behind these errors, women can face serious, lifelong injuries or even death when doctors do not provide a proper standard of care during pregnancy and childbirth. Mothers who have been injured in childbirth may wish to contact a medical malpractice attorney to review their cases for the potential to seek compensation for the harms they suffered.