Thursday, August 4 2022

WASHINGTON – The number of women dying from and during childbirth is increasing nationwide with disproportionately higher death rates for black and Hispanic women.

“It was a fear whether my baby and I will come out of this alive,” Chelsea Lawyer said of her experience giving birth to her first child in 2014.

She said her OBGYN was out of town when her waters broke, so she had to see a doctor on call for the delivery.

“My natural birth was thrown out the window, I was just sitting there having contractions and not progressing,” Lawyer said. “Like while I’m pushing or like…the doctor on duty was talking about my body in a less than positive way, while I’m sitting here in my most vulnerable state.”

Fortunately, Lawyer is alive to share her story, but for many minority women, that’s not always the case.

“Too many black women died, too many people period!” Too many people in childbirth have died. One is too many,” she said.

A recent CDC report shows that 861 women died of maternal causes in 2020 with Black women die nearly three times the rate as white women.

Dr. Leonard Weather said some medical professionals see black women differently. He said families should feel supported by their OBGYN.

“Make sure you understand that your doctor cares about you, because if he doesn’t act like he cares, frankly, he probably doesn’t, you may need to see another doctor” , said Dr. Weather, OBGYN in Shreveport, Louisiana.

President Biden’s FY22 budget request includes more than $200 million for implicit bias training for health care providers. It would also create state medical home programs for pregnancy.

On top of that, Lawyer thinks doctors can improve trends by simply listening to black women.


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“When we tell you that we are suffering, it is not for you to decide whether it is true or not. When we tell you what’s going on, believe us and go from there,” Lawyer said. “This shouldn’t always be a situation where I have to plead.”

Because of her experience, Lawyer works with Being the Village, a support group for black mothers in Washington State and virtually for mothers nationwide.

“I think for black women, our experience is unique and so to be able to share that with a group of other black women, and as we like to call it an apology-free space,” Lawyer said. “You’re able to come as yourself with other women who look like you and share the same kind of experiences and you don’t have to worry about that being judged.”

The Biden administration is also pushing for states to provide continued Medicaid coverage for 12 months after childbirth to avoid health insurance gaps after birth.

The White House says that currently states are only required to provide coverage for 60 days postpartum.

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