3 Reasons Why Black Maternal Health Is At Its Worse During COVID-19
Black women have been surviving pandemics long before COVID-19 came into the picture. Racism and high maternal mortality rates have raged wars against Black women in America for a long time. Still, the newest pandemic poses a grim threat: a worsened Black maternal mortality rate.
Maternal mortality, which is defined as the death of a mother up to a year following the end of pregnancy, has disproportionately affected Black women for decades. According to the CDC, Black women are “three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women.”
With COVID-19, scientists see Black communities disproportionately affected, which only exuberates adverse outcomes for pregnant or Black moms who recently gave birth. Several factors contribute to the high maternal mortality rate of Black women, such as health insurance or preexisting health conditions, but no one could have seen COVID-19 coming.
From hospital restrictions to telehealth appointments, COVID-19 presents unique challenges for pregnant women, but for Black women especially, these challenges could and have cost them their lives. Here are three reasons why Black maternal health is negatively affected by the pandemic:
Telehealth appointments hinder early detection of health risks and opens the door to biases.
Due to the number of rising cases, many hospitals and clinics put restrictions on who can enter the buildings, so many providers switched to telehealth appointments to lessen transmission. However, telehealth appointments can decrease the chance of detecting maternal warning signs early.
Not seeing a patient in person can lead to health care professionals missing these urgent warning signs, leading to significant risks for Black women who are already at a higher risk of complications. In addition, putting distance between provider and patients can make room for biases.
Hospital restrictions can lead to providers making riskier decisions.
Midwives are reporting that pregnant women haven’t been able to honor their birth plans due to hospitals limiting the number of people sitting and waiting. So to cut down on the number of people in hospitals, pregnant women are being pushed into inductions which is more likely to result in C-sections. C-sections pose a greater risk for complications for both the mom and baby.
Limited support during labor can put mothers at risk.
Did you know that maternal support in the delivery rooms lessens Black women’s chances of delivering a baby with very low birth weight? Doulas and pregnant women’s loved ones can advocate on behalf of the mother and baby and make sure their concerns are heard. But with hospitals placing limits on the number of people allowed in delivery rooms, Black women are left with little support, which puts them at higher risk of not getting their concerns heard.
The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, and we must be aware of how it’s adversely affecting Black maternal health. Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy fix to this persisting problem. Still, policymakers and health care professionals must find a way to better meet the needs and preserve the lives of both Black mothers and their children.