It Happened to Me – Growing Epidemic of Racial Disparity in Maternal Health

Black women are 243 percent more likely to die from pregnancy or pregnancy related complications than white women up to one year after given birth.

The statistics are alarming, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) black mothers die three to four times the rate of white mothers. Black women are finding that either they are mistreated or their pleas for help go ignored by doctors and medical staff. This crisis of maternal death and near-death persists among black women regardless of education and economic status.

At the age of 34 when I was expecting my fourth child I began to experienced shortness of breath around the twelfth week. It would continue throughout my entire pregnancy. My breathing problems made simple tasks such as walking and talking on the phone extremely difficult. I had not experienced this with my previous pregnancies and knew something was not right. When I complained to my doctor she said it was nothing to be concerned with. Six days after delivering my daughter via C-section I was gasping for air every time I held my baby. By the time I arrived to the emergency room my Oxygen levels were only at 68 percent where as normal levels are 95 – 100 percent. The hospital staff told me had I not come in when I did I would not have made it through the night. When I was admitted they thought it was pneumonia which can cause hypoxemia (low oxygen in the blood). However, we would quickly find out that was not the case as I grew progressively worse during the night. Having no medical history of high blood pressure it was now dangerously high.

After days of testing my lungs and heart and multiple CT scans, I was finally diagnosed with pregnancy induced Cardiomyopathy, pregnancy induced heart failure. My heart failure took a year to recover all because my doctor would not listen to my concerns.

My story is not unique, even Serena Williams the tennis champion had a near-death experience after delivering her daughter via C-section in 2017. We are the fortunate ones we are able to tell our stories. Countless other women have died only to hear their stories told by loved ones. One death is to many. I ask if you feel something is not right persist. Change doctors if necessary. Do not become a statistic. We must take a stand for fair and equal medical treatment.

Disclaimer: These opinions are mine alone, although I work in Maternal and Women’s health in the pharmaceutical industry I am not a medical doctor.