During the week of April 11 to April 17, we want to deepen the conversation about Black Maternal Health for Black Maternal Health Week. At Group Health Cooperative of South-Central Wisconsin, we want to bring awareness to the racial disparities in Black maternal health care.
In 2020, Black women were disproportionately affected by the mortality rate of 55.3 deaths per 100,000 live births, making Black birthing persons three to five times more likely to die from giving birth than white women in the United States. Research also indicates that 22% of Black birthing persons are more likely to receive a lower quality of care than White birthing persons and are more likely to be subject to discrimination in health care.
And this problem is found right here in Dane County and Wisconsin. Our state is continuously ranked the worst in the country regarding health and birth disparities. According to a report released by the Foundation of Black Women’s Wellness, babies born to Black birthing persons in Dane County are two times more likely to be delivered at low birth weight. A low birth weight puts newborns at a higher risk for health challenges and an increased mortality rate.
It’s also important to acknowledge the past experiences of Black women and birthing persons throughout history and how their sacrifices and trauma have helped shape modern-day medicine. In the 1840s, James Marion Sims, a white doctor in Montgomery, Alabama, performed painful experiments without anesthesia on Lucy, an enslaved Black woman, while other doctors observed. Sims would soon be dubbed the “Father of Gynecology.” Still, without his experiments on enslaved Black women and teens, Sims would’ve never been able to develop a technique to help with the chronic complications of childbirth.
As Black Maternal Health Week continues and we work together to increase health equity for Black women and birthing persons, let us keep in mind the trauma and experiences that have led us to today.