The disproportionate toll on African-Americans is the main reason the U.S. maternal mortality rate is so much higher than that of other affluent countries. Black expectant and new mothers in the U.S. die at about the same rate as women in countries such as Mexico and Uzbekistan, the World Health Organization estimates.

Black Mothers Keep Dying After Giving Birth. Shalon Irving’s Story Explains Why

On a melancholy Saturday this past February, Shalon Irving’s “village” – the friends and family she had assembled to support her as a single mother – gathered at a funeral home in a prosperous black neighborhood in southwest Atlanta to say goodbye.

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Washington D.C.’s infant mortality rate of 6.6 per 1,000 births is comparable to the national average rate of 6.1. However, in D.C.’s poorest area, infants are 10 times more likely to die than infants in the city’s most affluent area. Furthermore, women of color are hit the hardest. Now the women of Southeast D.C. (wards 7 and 8) – which are predominantly black and low-income – have even fewer maternal-health options.

Washington, DC’s Only Public Hospital Just Decided to Close Its Maternity Ward

In a closed-session vote Wednesday, the board of Washington, D.C.’s only public hospital decided to close its nursery and delivery rooms. As the Washington Post reports, now the women of Southeast D.C. (which is predominantly black and low-income) have even fewer maternal-health options.

photo: Alex Elle / @alex_elle

Each year in the United States, about 700 to 1,200 women die from pregnancy or childbirth complications, and black women like Saba are about three to four times more likely to die of pregnancy or delivery complications than white women.

Childbirth is killing black women, and here’s why

The former celebrity makeup artist, who saw clients such as novelists Candace Bushnell and Kyra Davis, decided to become a maternal health advocate, speaking on behalf of the 830 women who die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications every day around the world. That’s about 303,000 a year.

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#BirthingWhileBlack: the Role of Eugenics and Reproductive Politics

Rickie Solinger defined Reproductive politics in her book “Pregnancy and Power” as using power to control women’s reproductive capacity in order to solve larger social problems facing the country. These social issues change over time and, consequently, expectations of female fertility reverse to accommodate.

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#BirthingWhileBlack: Raw Stories of Slavebreeding from Ex-slaves

During slavery, slave owners encouraged black women to bear more children. Slave owners engaged in slave-breeding, in which they would force women to breed more children, whom they would then enslave themselves or sell. Some states (mainly Virginia) produced slaves as their main domestic crop. One slave trader from Virginia boasted that his successful breeding policies enabled him to sell 6,000 enslaved children a year. To white breeders, slaves were a commodity and the closest thing they had to monetary value. Thomas Jefferson’s abolition of transatlantic slave trade served as protection for domestic slave markets, as slavebreeding became the only source for continuous supply of slaves. To encourage child-bearing, some population owners promised women slaves their freedom after they had produced fifteen children. As such, black women and their bodies were exploited and violated in the pursuit of more slaves, and this history of exploitation surely has lingering effects of trauma and stress on future generations. Below are accounts from ex-slaves regarding the practice of slave breeding, as collected by Stephen Ashley in “The Breeding of American Slaves”.

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#BirthingWhileBlack: The Traumatic Impact of Stress and Systemic Racism on Pregnancy

Institutional and systemic racism means that Black women are more likely to live in neighborhoods that are impacted by poverty, substandard housing, and violence. Research has found that stress and traumatic life events during pregnancy contribute to preterm birth (less than 37 weeks), and low birth weight. Several studies also suggest that a complex relationship between lifetime exposure to racism, stress, trauma and prenatal depression  may trigger pregnancy complications.

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