Health

Black Women Have Higher Rates of Life-Threatening Birth Complications

The University of Michigan released a study that shows women of color have higher rates of major birth problems. Many required emergency treatment such as blood transfusions — a staggering three-quarters of cases —for women suffering a serious hemorrhage.

The study of 40,873 women between 2012-2015 revealed Black women had 70 percent higher rate of severe birth-related health issues than white women, and that a disparity existed in terms of needing life-saving treatment—50.5 Black mothers vs. 40.9 white mothers per 10,000.

Black women are three to four times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes as their white counterparts, according to the C.D.C.

“Celebrities like Serena Williams who have shared their birth-related emergency stories publicly have drawn the national spotlight to the urgent need to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in care for women around the time of delivery. To drive and target those changes, we need specific data like these,” said Lindsay Admon, M.D., M.Sc., the study’s lead author.

Williams, who has a history of blood clots, began feeling short of breath in the hospital the day after her daughter Alexis Olympia was born. A nurse said her pain medication was likely confusing her, but Williams was persistent and it saved her life.

“Situations like these are often considered near misses, and looking at them allows us to get a better picture of who the high-risk women really are,” said Admon, an obstetrician at Michigan Medicine’s Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital, and a member of the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

Maternal Morbidity: Study reveals disparities by race and ethnicity.

All women who had chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, hypertension, depression or substance use issues before giving birth had a higher risk for the continuation of those problems post-child birth, but women of color with two or more conditions were two to three times more likely to have major birth problems than white women.

White women had higher rates of depression and substance use issues than any other group, but the risk for birth problems was lower than women of color with the same health issues.

While Medicaid pays for almost two-thirds of all births among women of color, access to care is another issue that affects births and post birth health. Medicaid pays for more than a third of births of white and Asian women.

Prior to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Blacks and Latinos were more likely than whites to face barriers in access to health care.

Between 2013 and 2015, disparities with whites narrowed for Blacks and Latinos in states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA, including the percentage of uninsured working-age adults, the percentage who skipped care because of costs, and the percentage who lacked a regular care provider.

Medicaid pays for most procedures for women of color.

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