Why Are Black Babies Dying?
Huge racial disparities persist despite the drop in infant mortality rates in America. According to statistics, Black babies are dying at twice the rate of White babies in the United States.
Infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births, according to the CDC:
- Blacks 11.1%
- White 5.1%
- Hispanic 5%
- National Average 6%
Pediatrician Dr. Marilyn McPherson-Corder joined Roland Martin on NewsOne Now to discuss the disturbing infant mortality statistics amongst African-Americans and what can be done to change it.
Dr. McPherson-Corder explained there are things “we are still not doing in the Black community, and that is really preparing your body before you’re pregnant and during pregnancy, it’s so important to have prenatal care.”
She said some expectant mothers who have had children before may take a passive stance, believing every pregnancy is the same – but that is not the case: “We have many individuals, many mothers who don’t have prenatal care, so they take from the previous pregnancy … each pregnancy is different, so we’re beginning to see more premature deliveries.”
“Unfortunately, the complications of premature deliveries increases the mortality rate,” McPherson-Corder said.
Knowing when you’re pregnant is key to obtaining prenatal care as early in pregnancy as possible. “Many young women don’t know they’re pregnant until they’re in their second trimester, which is like four plus,” she continued.
Dr. McPherson-Corder recommended prenatal care should ideally start “within the first trimester, first or second month of pregnancy throughout, because there are certain things during pregnancy that do arise — high blood pressure, intrauterine growth retardation, which means that the baby is not growing, diabetes — certain things that may be activated by the chronic condition of that mother.”
Dr. Avis Jones DeWeever also reminded the audience that maternal mortality amongst African-American women has “doubled in the last 25 years.” She added, “It’s at unprecedented levels in relation to the industrialized world, and Black women are the reason for that. In fact, a Black woman in Lebanon has a greater chance of surviving child-birth and pregnancy than a Black woman in America.”
States in America with the highest infant mortality rates per CDC:
- Louisiana: 549
- Alabama: 500
- Mississippi: 371
- U.S. Total: 23,446
Dr. DeWeever then asked Dr. McPherson-Corder, “What are we doing as a nation to make sure that Black women survive pregnancy?”
“We have to make sure that we take being pregnant seriously,” she responded, adding there are an increasing number of cases where if the mother did not die, she may have experienced other pregnancy related complications such as “strokes and other serious conditions secondary to pregnancy.”
NewsOne Now panelist Cleo Manago asked if certain circumstances in America contribute to the high mortality rates amongst African-Americans.
Dr. McPherson-Corder attributed the increase in part to changes in our “Black family,” where the “grandmother, the mother, etc. were all caretakers. Now we have this independence, the young mother can have her own place … so you are talking about environmental dangers and we’re talking about infant mortality up to one years of age.”
She added the family support “has not been as rich as it has been.” McPherson-Corder also cited “disparities of care that’s given and the delivery of care that’s given, and the attitude that comes along with that.”
“So we as health professionals take some of the accountability and blame as well,” she concluded.
Watch Roland Martin, Dr. Marilyn McPherson-Corder, and the NewsOne Now panel discuss infant mortality rates within the Black community in the video clip above.
Subscribe to the “NewsOne Now” Audio Podcast on iTunes.