FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Black women are more likely to die from complications of childbirth than white women and Hispanic white women and the death rate has increased for the past ﬁve years, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The alarming rate has members of the Black community on edge as federal lawmakers including U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherﬁlus-McCormick, a Democrat representing portions of Broward and Palm Beach counties, are struggling to combat the maternal mortality crisis.
Cherﬁlus-McCormick was among a group of federal lawmakers to cosponsor Black Maternal Health Week this month to raise awareness of the crisis and help Black women get the healthcare they need during pregnancy.
“Pregnancy and childbirth should be a safe experience for all mothers,” said Cherﬁlus-McCormick. “Unfortunately, complications related to pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum can lead to devastating health outcomes, disproportionately impacting communities of color.
“I am co-sponsoring this resolution to shine a light on this longstanding crisis and pinpoint the equitable policy solutions that parents urgently need.”
According to the CDC, Black women experience maternal mortality two to three times higher than white women and Hispanic white women in the United States, with a rate of about 17 per 100,000 live births vs. about 43 per 100,000 live births for Blacks.
The deaths take place during pregnancy or within 42 days following delivery, according to the World Health Organization.
The CDC reported that 2021 saw one of the worst rates of maternal mortality in U.S. history, when 1,205 people died of maternal causes, which was a 40 percent increase from the previous year.
The U.S. rate for 2021 was 32.9 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, which is more than ten times the estimated rates of some other high-income countries, including Australia, Austria, Israel, Japan and Spain, which all hovered between 2 and 3 deaths per 100,000 in 2020.
Black maternal mortality accounted for the highest rate in 2021, according to the CDC.
The disparity stems from lack of access to proper healthcare, socioeconomics status, pre-existing conditions, medical racism and racial history.
According to the Florida Department of Health, Black women between the ages of 20 and 40 are more likely to die from complications of pregnancy including hemorrhage, hypertensive disorders and cardiomyopathy.
Cherﬁlus-McCormick said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the inequities indicating the maternal mortality rate for Black women has increased by 26 percent since the pandemic began.
The Black Maternal Mortality Health Week was one of several initiatives to help reverse the trend for Black women, as Cherﬁlus-McCormick is teaming with fellow congressional members including North Carolina Rep. Alma Adams and Illinois Rep. Lauren Underwood.
Adams, co-founder and co-chair of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, spearheaded several initiatives to tackle the Black Maternal mortality crisis including introducing the ﬁrst congressional resolution recognizing Black Maternal Health Week with then-Sen. Kamala Harris and the Black Mamas Matter Alliance in 2018, when the mortality rate was on the rise.
Adams said she and Underwood launched a Congressional Caucus in 2019 that focused on Black maternal health called Black Maternal Health Caucus, which now boasts 115 bipartisan members of Congress.
Adams said in 2020, they introduced the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, a package of 12 bills to comprehensively address existing gaps in policy solutions to the maternal health crisis.
"The bill was crafted with Black women, by Black women and for Black women," Adams said. "Last Congress, we re-introduced the Momnibus, and passed the ﬁrst bill from the package. I’m so excited to continue this work in this Congress, because Black mamas can’t wait."
Underwood, co-founder and cochair of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, said their efforts are to save lives and end disparities.
"I’m thrilled to continue this work with Congresswoman Adams and I am grateful to the Black Mamas Matter Alliance for their leadership in establishing this critical week of awareness and action," she said.
"We must continue to elevate Black maternal health as a national priority and pass the entire Momnibus."