Maternity care disparities for black women

One study suggested that here in Wisconsin Black women are five times as likely to die.
Published: Jul. 16, 2020 at 4:20 PM CDT
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BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - The Black Lives Matter movement has opened up the door for a conversation about systematic racism, one of those being the disparities in maternal care for Black women.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women are 2 to 3 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.

One study suggested that here in Wisconsin Black women are 5 times as likely to die.

“I don’t think the doctors recognize that they aren’t giving the appropriate care,” obstetrician-gynecologist Kristin Lyerly said. “I think that often patients don’t recognize that they aren’t seeing appropriate care because it’s what we’re used to.”

Dr. Lyerly has been studying this data along with other health officials. She said it’s not only the mortality numbers but what happens when the mom and baby go home.

“We know that for every woman who dies related to pregnancy and childbirth, 50 more women we estimate suffer complications,” Dr. Lyerly said. “For Black women, it’s almost double the rate of white women.”

Dr. Lyerly said part of the problem is socio-economic disparities. “Access to healthy food, exercise, a practitioner that you feel you can trust and ask questions to,” she said.

Emily Jacobson, the founder of Green Bay Doulas, said she’s been hired by Black moms who are scared of the hospital system.

“That is heartbreaking to know that just because based on the color of your skin you feel like you need to hire, per se, like a bodyguard,” Jacobson said.

Dr. Lyerly said the problem can’t be fixed overnight, but a start would be having more health care professionals that look like the patients they serve.

“When I talk with families around Wisconsin, they’re shocked by these numbers because they just don’t seem possible that Wisconsin can be so much worse than the national average,” said Dr. Lyerly. “But it’s real, it’s here, and now it’s time to address it.”

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