Black Maternal Mortality in the South

By Jabren Cannida

In the United States the southern states have the higher maternal mortality rates with some of them being significantly higher than the United States overall rates. In some of the southern states the maternal mortality rate for black women is higher than the states overall rate. If you take a look at Georgia the state has a maternal mortality rate 48.4 which is almost double the United States rate. Despite there being so many programs studying major causes in pregnancy related deaths the rate is still incredibly high. In an article by Grady Capstone Journalist “In Georgia, The Most Dangerous State For Pregnant Women, Policy Change Could Save Lives” it states that the main reason that Georgia’s maternal mortality rate  is so high is because most pregnant women are unable to access quality healthcare in rural areas, little health insurance coverage, and systemic racial disparities. A professor of public health at the University of Georgia revealed that the pregnant women who pass away a few months after giving birth are pregnancy related most of the time but the ones who pass away up to a year after giving birth are usually because of health conditions made worse by pregnancy. Because Georgia decided not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care act many residents were left in the coverage gap. Even pregnant women who are covered by Medicaid are still likely to lose coverage 2 months following pregnancy which is sad because there have been many studies that show that most pregnancy related deaths happen up to a year after giving birth. In Gray Chapman’s article “Too many Georgia women die in pregnancy-related deaths. Will the state be able to fund one life-saving measure?” It says that one of the solutions the Georgia House Study Committee on Maternal Mortality came up with was expanding Medicaid for women who had recently given birth. They want to increase the time limit up to a year like Illinois but because the version the state budget passed it would be up to only six months. Currently patients can reapply for Medicaid and if they wanted to but the income threshold is significantly lower so most women are denied. According to Gary Chapman’s article it states “According to the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, 76 percent of Georgia mothers making less than 220 percent of the poverty line ($37,900 for a family of two and $47,700 for family of three) made too much money to requalify for Medicaid after the 60-day period.” If the expansion time was increased to a year it would save the lives of many black mothers who suffered from preeclampsia, hemorrhages or pregnancy induced diabetes. The expansion would still help a lot and still save many mother’s lives. Louisiana currently has the highest maternal mortality rate in the country. One of Louisiana’s biggest issues is high blood pressure. In an article by Emily Woodruff titled “Pregnancies in Louisiana are safer, but Black women still have higher rates of these conditions” she says “…there are stark differences in the data when looking at the race of patients, and Black women continue to have more of these complications than White women.” Even though they have been working to improve this issue according to the health department report only white women have seen improvement on this issue. Another one of Louisiana’s biggest issues is the lack of maternal health care in many areas of the state and pregnant women have to travel long distances if they want to receive health care. In Emily Woodruff’s article “What contributes to Louisiana’s high maternal mortality rate? The distance to care, research says” she has a story of a pregnant woman named Ashley Landreneau who said “With my experience and everything I’ve been through, I can’t see just anyone…. The closest hospital to me is 45 minutes away. There’s not a specialist there that can deliver. There’s no NICU.” This is terrible because in case of a pregnancy related emergency the pregnant women would have to travel too far and by that time it could be too late. Florida is one of the southern states that has a low maternal mortality rate compared to the other two and it is because they have the Florida Maternal Mortality Review Committee or FLMMRC that was established by the Florida Department of Health in 1996. Even though they have the committee in place to survey the maternal mortality rate they still have an issue with the rate for black pregnant women. In Robin Bravender’s article “‘It’s not fine.’ Black mothers and babies are dying in Florida” he calls to attention the states and county’s high death rate and hopes that there is a change. I hope that there is a change as well for black women across the United States to where they won’t have to worry about whether they will live or not after giving birth.

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