Black Maternal Birth Complications
Pregnant woman holding her stomach.

Black Maternal Birth Complications

In the United States, Black women suffer tremendously when it comes to having a baby. For example, the maternal mortality rate among Black mothers is almost three times as high as those for white and Hispanic mothers, with 55.3 out of every 100,000 live births ending in maternal death. According to research, this disparity stems from health care inequalities, underlying health conditions, and medical racism.

The reality is that pregnancy can be deadly for Black women in America.

Common Complications

Due to the challenges mentioned above, Black mothers are more likely to face complications during pregnancy than any other group of women. The Grossman Roth Yaffa Cohen team is here to share with you some common complications Black mothers face throughout their pregnancy and postpartum.

Pre-Eclampsia and Eclampsia

Pre-eclampsia is more common during pregnancy and after giving birth. It is caused by a sudden spike in blood pressure and can cause fatal health problems for a mother and her children. If not treated appropriately, pre-eclampsia can lead to eclampsia, a rare condition where high blood pressure can cause seizures and comas.

Some warning signs of pre-eclampsia include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Severe headaches
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Inflammation of the feet, legs, hands, or face

High Blood Pressure

Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is a common condition in which the force of the blood against your artery walls can cause health problems if high enough. If a mother has high blood pressure before pregnancy, their chances of pre-term birth and pre-eclampsia are higher.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a form of high blood sugar that affects a mother’s insulin and hormone levels, which help your body use glucose for energy. This usually occurs in women who did not have diabetes pre-pregnancy and increase the mother’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Daily blood sugar monitoring, exercise, and a healthy diet can help prevent gestational diabetes, but more severe cases will require medication.

Postpartum Hemorrhage

Postpartum hemorrhage is one of the more deadly conditions Black mothers face after birth. This occurs when a mother loses threatening amounts of blood, which can happen anywhere between giving birth and 12 weeks postpartum.

Some signs of postpartum hemorrhage include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Drop in blood pressure levels
  • Weakness
  • Rapid heartbeat

Contributing Factors

Insurance and a lack of access to proper care serve as factors as to why Black women are more likely to be uninsured outside of pregnancy. This means they are more likely to skip out on prenatal and postpartum care. The CDC also estimates that half of the women who experience unplanned pregnancies do not seek proper medical care during their first trimester of pregnancy.

Because Black women are more likely to live in areas where historical segregation has existed for years, they are more likely to receive outdated care, which can lead to life-threatening complications.

Chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes and obesity make it even more dangerous for a mother to give birth. Fifteen percent of pregnancy-related deaths between 2014 and 2017 were caused by other cardiovascular conditions. Another 6.6% were from hypertensive disorders of pregnancy.

Neglect of concerns is one of the most common contributing factors to birthing complications. There are many stereotypes in the medical field revolving around Black women and their pain tolerance. A study done at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, found that most health care providers studied had implicit bias and displayed a more positive attitude toward white patients and a negative attitude toward patients of color.

U.S. Maternal Mortality Rates Increase Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Maternal mortality rates in the United States are already known to be alarmingly high compared to other wealthy countries, such as over twice as high as those of Canada and the United Kingdom. These rates have only gotten worse since the start of the pandemic, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For 2020, the U.S. maternal mortality rate was 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births. That amounts to 861 American women who lost their lives to maternal causes.

Preventative Actions

There are concrete ways to mitigate our nation’s abysmal maternal mortality rates, including those among Black mothers.

For instance, the Commonwealth Fund has a few solutions. In a 2020 report, it made clear that lower maternal mortality rates in other countries are largely due to the following, all of which the U.S. lacks:

  • Better access to health care
  • Access to paid maternity leave
  • Increased use of qualified midwives

Some local governments, namely in New York and New Jersey, have already taken action to provide mothers with more resources. Recent initiatives expanded Medicaid coverage to cover midwives and doulas, aiming to provide mothers with additional attention, emotional reassurance, and a better insight into the overall birthing experience. Efforts like these can influence other states to adopt similar practices, thereby benefitting Black mothers in the U.S.

Whether you work with a doula or not, it’s highly recommended to voice every concern with your health care provider and seek other opinions when something does not feel right. It is a medical professional's duty to provide you with the same level of care they provide their other patients. Ignoring any symptoms of yours is a form of medical malpractice, and these professionals should be held responsible for their lack of action.

We’re Here for You

At Grossman Roth Yaffa Cohen, we are committed to lowering our nation’s maternal mortality rates, as well as the rate of injury during labor and delivery. That’s why we advocate for women injured by health care providers who ignored them, minimized their health concerns, and/or failed to give them the treatment they needed and deserved.

For example, GRYC Attorney Gary Cohen recently won justice for the family of Onystei Castillo-Lopez, a young Hispanic mother who died of postpartum hemorrhage due to medical negligence. Attorney Cohen uncovered a long history of malpractice by her doctor, Berto Lopez, which dated back to the early days of his medical career. This included the deaths of six women and children, two botched circumcisions, and numerous catastrophic injuries. Attorney Cohen was proud to represent Onystei’s family and protect future patients from harm.

If you believe that your doctor deviated from the required standard of care, you may be able to hold them liable. Our team at Grossman Roth Yaffa Cohen does not want you to go through this challenging time alone. We are here to help you get the support that you and your child need. Our attorneys have led many medical malpractice cases, and we have the resources and years of experience to handle even the most complex cases.

For more information on how we can help you with your case, give us a call at (866) 629-1061 or fill out this form to get started on your next consultation.


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