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Racial Disparity Before, During and After Pregnancy – Blog 5 of 6

Posted by on February 27th, 2018

“Mothers Love.” by Andrae Ricketts via Unsplash, September 8, 2017, CCO.

An earlier blog post brought you the story of Shalon Irving, the CDC epidemiologist who died just a few short weeks after giving birth to her daughter.  Shalon’s story is tragic and brings to light a bigger issue.  Black women are dying of pregnancy related causes at 3x the rate of other races.  In our last blog, we examined labor and delivery.  This post will discuss postpartum care.

The postpartum period immediately follows giving birth and has three distinct but continuous phases.

  • Initial or acute period – first 6-12 hours following birth
  • Second Phase – can last 2-6 weeks
  • Third Phase – can last up to 6 months

The March of Dimes lists the following risks that can occur in the postpartum period:

Not all complications result in death, but the latest numbers do show that between 2011 and 2013 at least 5,259 women died within a year of giving birth.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists the causes for those deaths:

  • Cardiovascular diseases, 15.5%
  • Non-cardiovascular diseases, 14.5%
  • Infection or sepsis, 12.7%
  • Hemorrhage, 11.4%
  • Cardiomyopathy, 11.0%
  • Thrombotic pulmonary embolism, 9.2%
  • Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, 7.4%
  • Cerebrovascular accidents, 6.6%
  • Amniotic fluid embolism, 5.5%
  • Anesthesia complications, 0.2%
  • The cause of death is unknown for 6.1%

Although all women are susceptible to suffering a fatal complication, black women are dying at 3x the rate of other races.  There is ongoing research as to why this statistic exists but one issue that stood out is accessibility or awareness of resources is lacking. In our next blog post, we will share some of the great resources that the National Institute of Health has available

If you missed Shalon’s story earlier, read it here:  story on npr.org about Shalon Irving

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