U.S. maternal mortality rates are dismal. Sadly, unlike most health outcomes, this death rate is increasing. This mortality rate is not evenly spread among U.S. citizens. African-American women face a disproportionate risk during pregnancy and child birth, regardless of wealth or education. For the past two decades, researchers have believed that this increased risk to African-American mothers is due to the effects of living in a society with daily experiences of racism large and small.
Despite the scholarly consensus that African-American mothers are at increased risk, hospitals and doctors in the U.S. are not meeting their increased needs. Instead, African-American mothers face less responsive medical professionals, who are less likely to take symptoms seriously. The consequences can be deadly. The tennis player Serena Williams recently wrote about her own harrowing birth, where doctors ignored her postpartum symptoms and almost missed that her lungs were in danger of being blocked by a blood clot-despite her known propensity for that condition.
A hospital can do little to change the fundamental lived experience every patient brings into the maternity ward. They may, however, be able to change some fundamental aspects of the birth experience to reduce the risks from stress, racism, and other societal ills. Most importantly, hospitals may be able to train their staff to recognize the unique risks faced by African-American mothers and babies.
What do you think? Will U.S. Hospitals Succeed in Lowering Maternal Mortality Rates for African-American Women?
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