Feb 28, 2019

Childbirth is more deadly for black mothers

Room in a MAternity ward

A maternity ward. Photo: Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Racial disparities in health are getting better, but there's still a deep and persistent inequity between the health of white and black mothers. "Put simply, for black women far more than for white women, giving birth can amount to a death sentence," Harvard's public-health school notes in its magazine.

By the numbers: Maternal mortality is on the rise overall in the U.S., according to Harvard. On average, the mother dies in 18 out of every 100,000 births. For white women, it's about 12 deaths per 100,000 births. But for black women, the mortality rate is over 3 times higher — 40 deaths per 100,000 births.

Researchers have consistently tied those disparities to social factors, like poverty and racial discrimination. If your body experiences enough severe stress and fight-or-flight situations over a long enough time period, your health suffers.

  • "It's like facing tigers coming from several directions every day," University of Michigan professor Arline Geronimus told the Harvard magazine.

Go deeper ... The average sticker price for U.S. childbirth: $32,093

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