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More Pregnancy-Linked Deaths Are Preventable, Experts Say, If Doctors Listen To Minority Women

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Recent studies show the U.S. has the highest pregnancy-related death rates of any developed country, and your race could put you at a greater risk. According to a 2021 March of Dimes Report Card, Maryland is scored as a "C-" for its preterm birth grade.

"In Maryland, the maternal mortality rate is about 14 deaths per 100,000," said Mallory Mpare-Quarles, director of maternal child health at March of Dimes D.C.

"On what I thought was going to be the best day of my life, it turned out to be a nightmare and at the same time, we got a beautiful baby girl," said Terrick Allen.

Allen is still trying to cope with the sudden and unexpected death of the love of his life and mother of four of his children.

"It was in a split second, my life changed just like that," he said.

Allen says Melonie Joyner was a healthy 37-year-old woman leading up to her fourth pregnancy. She died in October shortly after giving birth to their fourth daughter, Tylah Rose.

"They said she went into cardiac arrest and then it was amniotic fluid going into the heart and then her brain," Allen said.

According to March of Dimes, today, the U.S. remains among the most dangerous of developed nations for childbirth, particularly for communities of color, with about 700 mothers dying from pregnancy-related deaths each year.

"It's a huge systemic issue that is really, particularly for communities of color is undergirded by this persistent long-standing history of racism. The only way we're going to do that is to really eliminate the health equity gap," said Mpare-Quarles.

Data shows Black women are dying at three to four times the rate of white women, and experts say most of these deaths can be prevented.

"I think that they can be prevented by educating the patient obviously, by educating the women, but also listening to the women as they are sharing these symptoms," said Mpare-Quarles.

"All too often mothers of color are seen as maybe over-exaggerating or just exaggerating their symptoms, whereas we are seen for some reason externally as tough," Christine Michel Carter, executive committee member of Mom Congress said. "So when we do express our concerns they're not always heard, which is, which is very unfortunate."

Allen says he wishes they knew of the prevalence of maternal mortality in the U.S. sooner.

"I know we would have taken more precaution," said Allen. "I know it's something, a missed step that was made that Melonie is supposed to be here right now with us with her kids right now if we knew about it."

He wants to share a message with other future and expecting mothers.

"Your check-ups, make sure you take them serious. Make sure your doctors take them serious. go get second opinions," said Allen. "We need to do some research because mothers don't need to lose their life for giving babies, that should be like the most joyous, best time of your life."

Lawmakers and advocates are pushing to lower the maternal mortality rate across the country.

On Tuesday, President Biden signed the first bill in the "Momnibus" package in to act, putting $15 million dollars behind maternity care for women veterans.

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