Black women face greater risk of death and trauma due to childbirth. This reporter explored why


Black women die due to pregnancy-related complications at a rate that is three times higher than their white peers, according to recent federal data, and experts say those tragic disparities result from structural racism. In a yearlong investigation, Capital B national health reporter Margo Snipe examined records in Georgia to better understand how disinvestment in health care systems that served predominantly Black communities led to maternal health care deserts.

Watch the conversation in the player above.

In Georgia, eight out of 10 deaths linked to pregnancy occur after childbirth, according to Snipe's analysis of reports from the state's maternal mortality review board. That's higher than the national average, according to the Commonwealth Fund, which has reported that about five out of 10 maternal deaths occur after labor and delivery.

READ MORE: U.S. maternal mortality spiked during the worst days of COVID, new data shows

But Black pregnant people also experience postpartum depression and preventable complications at higher rates than their non-Black peers. In Snipe's reporting, she interviewed multiple families who had endured these traumas. Collectively, their stories also echo what Black birthing people nationwide have said for years.

"Black folks are speaking up a lot of the time, and they're really calling for providers to listen," Snipe told PBS NewsHour digital anchor Nicole Ellis.

'I wish I had been brave enough to stick up for myself'

Beyond systemic disinvestment, Snipe found that many families said they felt health care providers ignore or dismiss their concerns and complaints, and that if they listened to them, problems would not turn into emergencies.

Many individuals and families Snipe interviewed said they were still processing the trauma they had encountered in the health care system. Thinking about what they would like to do differently, Snipe said many interviewees told her, "'I wish I had felt brave enough to stick up for myself." Others said they had spoken out when they first recognized a problem, but that health care workers did not listen to them.

Taking action

Several Black women who Snipe interviewed blamed the hospitals where they delivered their children for their birth outcomes and complications. Through her reporting, Snipe recommended that pregnant people seek out health care providers who are aware of and sensitive to longstanding disparities to counteract systemic inequities. She also urged Black families and individuals to talk openly, especially with their health care providers, about mental health. Even when an infant is born without visible complications, the stress of child birth and parenting can take a toll.

One of the mothers Snipe interviewed reported feeling postpartum depression and sadness, but not knowing how to put a name to what she was feeling. Kimberly McGill said that in her community, Black women are taught to prioritize emotional toughness. "There's not a lot about our culture that allows you to feel sad," McGill said, according to Snipe's reporting.

"We talk a lot about maternal deaths, but there's a large number of women and families who are grappling with the mental health toll of nearly dying in childbirth or having a traumatic experience," Snipe said.

Black women face greater risk of death and trauma due to childbirth. This reporter explored why first appeared on the PBS NewsHour website.

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