Good Morning America’s story of Sha-asia, a 26-year-old black woman dying in childbirth, shed more light on something we still rarely hear about, but experts say is a common occurrence: black maternal mortality and pregnancy complications.
The United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates among industrialized nations. In fact, we are the only first-world country where the rate has gotten worse despite improvements in health care. Maternal death rates in the U.S. has doubled since the 1980s, while trending lower globally.
Although women of all races are affected, black mothers are dying at a much higher rate than others — being three to four times more likely to die in childbirth than white and Hispanic women in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It’s basically a public health and human rights emergency because it’s been estimated that a significant portion of these deaths could be prevented,” said Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Ana Langer in a February 20, 2019 American Heart Association article.
Our founder, Tunya Griffin, knows first hand what it’s like to face serious pregnancy-related complications.
Here’s her personal story in her own words, in brief:
Unfortunately, I can say that I personally experienced the type of problems that growing numbers of black women face while carrying a child (remember tennis star Serena Williams serious pregnancy issues). The story of my pregnancy back in 1993 is not unlike that of Sha-asia’s. The only major difference is, twenty-seven years later, I am here to tell my story.
A combination of medical arrogance and overlooked symptoms caused me to dismiss my swollen feet and excessive weight gain as just what happens during pregnancy. But it was in my 34th week that a visiting doctor from another hospital who was filling in for my regular doctor, diagnosed me with pre-eclampsia, a still-little-understood condition that can lead to maternal death characterized by swollen ankles, high blood pressure and protein in the urine. The finding resulted in my routine eight-month checkup becoming an emergency delivery. My mantra now is: “Its the squeaky wheel that gets the attention – advocate for yourself until someone will take you serious!” Thankfully, I survived and the 3-lb. baby girl I gave birth to is now a healthy twenty-seven-year-old young woman.