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Black women face higher risk of death during pregnancy

Black women at higher risk for maternal mortality
Black women at higher risk for maternal mortality 02:37

Union, New Jersey — The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate for a developed country: About 700 women die during childbirth or soon after every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Danisha Baughan delivered her first two children in a hospital, and said both times she felt neglected. A week before she was due to give birth to her third child, the 38-year-old said this time she was going to a birthing center.

"I can't. The hospital thing. I can't do it. I don't want to," she said. "Because of my fear that I'm not going to be taken care of … Even worse, not make it through the pregnancy." 

Dr. Nicola Pemberton, the OB-GYN who runs The Birth Center of New Jersey, said Baughan's fear is not unusual. 

"I would say a lot of patients who come to my practice come with the narrative of, 'I don't want to die,'" Pemberton said. 

Black women are at least three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than White women, according to the CDC.

"It's a multitude of reasons, and it's a horrible statistic," said Errol Pierre, the senior vice president of New York state programs at Healthfirst, a not-for-profit health insurer. 

"A study in Florida showed this, that Black children had higher birth rates and higher survival rates when there were Black doctors delivering the baby," Pierre said. 

There's a push on Capitol Hill to provide more than $1 billion in funding to address the disparity. Illinois Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, who is a registered nurse and one of the bill's key sponsors, said the funding would go toward "increasing the number and the diversity of our maternal health care workers." 

"That means more Obs, more midwives, more nurse midwives, more lactation consultants, more doulas. Because we believe that every birthing person in this country should have a choice in their providers," Underwood said. 

Baughan said the birth of her healthy baby boy Ermias was a better birthing experience than with her earlier children and one she believes can help save lives. 

"Here, I feel like I see the care, the level of care is completely different," she said. 

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