Five Fast Facts About Black Maternal Health

April 11, 2024
Two Black mothers holding babies

By Shelby Crosier

Black Maternal Health Week is celebrated from April 11-17 every year. In recognition, here are five facts that we think you should know.



 Maternal mortality and morbidity are disproportionately high in Black women.

Black women in the U.S. die from pregnancy-related causes at over twice the rate of white women. As the overall maternal mortality rate has risen in recent years, this disparity has become wider. Black women also experience higher rates of other pregnancy-related complications and health problems like high blood pressure and preterm birth.



Black women are the most burdened by restrictive reproductive health policies.

In the post-Roe v. Wade era, Black women in Southern states with particularly restrictive abortion policies experience unique challenges in receiving the care that they need. They are less likely to receive abortion care when they want it, and they often face barriers like a lack of transportation and child care, stigma in the health care system, and less education about abortion options. Some promising interventions could help address the latter.



Systemic and environmental factors contribute to maternal health disparities.

Systemic racism is a large contributing factor to maternal health disparities. It drives social determinants of health like socioeconomic status, increases stress, and leads to provider bias, all of which can increase the odds of poor health outcomes for Black women. All of these factors can also compound the negative health effects from exposure to harmful substances in the environment.



Medicaid expansion, doula care, and other interventions can help improve Black maternal health outcomes.

Policy-level solutions are essential to help solve the Black maternal health crisis. One such solution is expanding postpartum Medicaid coverage, which many states have done in the past two years. Another opportunity to support Black maternal health through Medicaid expansion is to allow for Medicaid reimbursement of doula services. This would increase access to doulas, which could mitigate some effects of social determinants of health and improve birth outcomes.



Continued research and advocacy are needed to advance Black maternal health.

Improving maternal health outcomes, especially for Black women, requires continued research, more advocacy, and better data. It is also vital to partner closely with community members as academic and government institutions launch new research initiatives and programs to address this issue.