Lower Infant/Maternal Mortality and Racial Disparities

Best Start Mom and Baby (Born June 2019)

Senator Kamala Harris reintroduces a bill to address black maternal mortality. To assist further in improving outcomes surrounding OB care, the American Association of Birth Center’s is seeking support from Senator Harris to co-sponsor the BABIES Act.

The United States is the only industrialized country with an increasing maternal mortality rate. The country is experiencing what is referred to as the “Black Maternal Mortality Crisis” as Black mothers are dying at an alarming rate. Black women’s symptoms, pain, and health concerns are often ignored or dismissed by healthcare providers. The healthcare system has what Senator Kamala Harris calls “implicit bias” against Black women. Harris is reintroducing the Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies (CARE) Act, which aims to address the racial bias Black mothers face.

The inequity is demonstrated in several areas of maternal health outcomes. Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than White women and have the highest rates of preterm birth and low birth weight. Fetal death after 20 weeks also disproportionately affects Black women. Harris maintains that these disparities affect Black women of all income and education levels and cannot be explained by genetics or lack of healthcare access. She calls for an increase of culturally competent care to address racial bias in the healthcare system.

The midwifery model of care effectively provides individualized, patient-centered care that results in a reduction of outcome disparities. Midwives value inclusivity and empower all mothers in their birthing choices.

Midwives and birth centers are an integral part of the solution to the Black Maternal Mortality Crisis: CMS Strong Start data shows that women with birth center prenatal care received more effective care practices and achieved better outcomes. Racial disparities are almost eliminated for preterm birth and reduced for cesarean and low birth weight.

A significantly lower cesarean rate is directly related to lowering maternal mortality and reducing racial disparities (lower rates of hemorrhage, infection and fewer placenta related complications in future pregnancies), and reduced infant mortality due to reduced preterm birth and low birth weight births–the 2 biggest causes of infant death. Increased breastfeeding for a longer period of time improves infant health over their lifetime. Birth centers have shown tremendous success in lowering Infant-Maternal Mortality and birth centers model parity.

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