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Black Maternal Health Week shines light on alarming disparities, as CDC reports rising death rates

Black women in Philadelphia face harsh disparities in maternal health care
Black women in Philadelphia face harsh disparities in maternal health care 02:13

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Black Maternal Health Week has started to raise awareness about the disparities Black people face when having children. The CDC said Black women in the United States are three times more likely to die from pregnancy complications compared to White women and the numbers are worse in Philadelphia.

It's an alarming rise the maternal death rate in the U.S. keeps inching upward.

The latest CDC data from 2021 shows more than 1,200 women died of pregnancy complications up from 754 deaths in 2019.

"The situation is even worse for Black mothers because their maternal mortality rate is more than twice that of White patients or Hispanic patients." Dr. Tochi Iroku-Malize, Board Chair of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said.


Research shows Black people have more pregnancy complications like preeclampsia. And doctors said there is systematic racism and discrimination in health care.

In Philadelphia, Black people are four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than White people. 

The leading causes of pregnancy-related deaths include mental health conditions, followed by excessive bleeding, heart conditions, infections, blood clots, high blood pressure and lack of access to good health care.

"You have hospital closure. So we call them some job deserts where hospitals have shut down their labor and delivery wards," Iroku-Malize said.

Delaware County Memorial Hospital and Hahnemann Hospital recently closed in the Philadelphia region.

The CDC said more than 80% of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable. 


Women are advised to seek medical attention for any irregularities or concerns.

Doctors said people need to understand that more than half of maternal deaths happen up to a year after birth.

"Maternal health care doesn't stop after the patient gives birth," Iroku-Malize said.

The Philadelphia Health Department has created a program called Organized Voices For Action to help bring down the high rates of maternal mortality.

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