Content warning: This post discusses Black maternal mortality.

News flash: Despite the fact that maternal mortality rates in the United States are finally declining after at least three years of continuous increases, far too many Black parents continue to die during birth. The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that for every 100,000 babies born to Black moms, nearly 50 moms die due to childbirth complications. For white moms, that number is about 19.  

For a deeper look at the Black maternal health crisis, Happiest Baby sat down with Angela D. Aina, MPH, co-founder and executive director of Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA)—the organization behind Black Maternal Health Week.

Happiest Baby: Can you share a little bit about what Black Mamas Matter Alliance does?
Angela D. Aina, MPH: BMMA is a Black women-led, cross-sectoral alliance working to advance Black maternal health, rights, and justice in communities both domestically and globally. Our primary goal is ensuring all Black Mamas have the rights, respect, and resources to thrive before, during, and after pregnancy. In doing so, we always uplift the work of locally based, Black women-led groups and organizations whose work is deeply rooted in reproductive justice, birth justice, and human rights. And in 2018 we started Black Maternal Health Week to deepen the national conversation. Each year during BMHW we reach audiences of well over 1 million!

Angela D. Aina, MPH, co-founder of BMMA

HB: In 2021 BMHW was officially recognized by the White House. Why is this such a big step in the right direction?
ADA: It’s critical that local, state, and national policy leaders engage on these issues. When our elected officials speak out to inform and galvanize the public around legislative priorities and opportunities such as the Momnibus Act and the Pregnant Fair Workers Act, it strengthens efforts to advance policy and systems change, and improve maternal health outcomes for Black women and birthing people. 

HB: What’s your best advice for Black folks in America who are worried about their health and safety during pregnancy?
ADA: All birthing people need the resources, opportunities, and support that enables them to protect their rights and bodily autonomy—and make the best decisions for themselves and their families. Each of us has a voice that should be heard and we should feel empowered to speak out whenever we, or the Black Mamas we love, are being harmed or denied the quality maternal care they deserve. Our Black Mamas Matter Toolkit is an excellent resource for advocates who are concerned about the health and wellbeing of Black women and girls. We encourage everyone to read and share it as a way to educate and inform on the various solutions and interventions that are available.

HB: How can care providers start to do better by their Black clients/patients?
ADA: We encourage all healthcare providers to participate in our bi-annual Black Maternal Health Conference & Training Institute. We also encourage them to read and engage with resources from agencies within the U.S. Health & Human Services Department, such as CDC’s Hear Her Campaign, is full of information that is applicable to healthcare providers. 

HB: What can the community at large and allies do to help improve Black maternal health?
ADA: As we navigate a landscape of increasing abortion restrictions and the alarming criminalization of pregnancy loss, we as communities must reaffirm our commitment to dismantling oppressive structures and affirming the inherent worth, agency, and bodily autonomy of all people—including communities most impacted by health inequities such as Black Mamas.

Our healing, our joy, our birthing experiences, and our liberation—they all matter. That’s why it is important for everyone to get familiar with issues that are impacting maternal and reproductive health because it applies to everyone—and exercise your civic duty by voting. Again, everyone can review and learn more about these issues by accessing BMMA’s Policy Agenda, and visiting the Black Maternal Health Caucus website to learn more about the Momnibus Act

HB: Looking ahead, what’s the biggest obstacle for Black maternal health equity?
ADA: A persistent obstacle that impacts the advancements of Black maternal health equity is a lack of funding and investment in Black maternal health research endeavors led by Black scholars and community-based entities. Within that, there’s a lack of investments and policies that support diversifying the midwifery pipeline and allowing midwives to practice to their fullest scope of training. There’s also reduced and challenging funding and resources for Black-led community-based clinics and social safety organizations. 

HB: What changes are you most optimistic about?
ADA: We feel most optimistic about how deeply our comprehensive Policy Agenda resonates with maternal and reproductive health stakeholders. There’s also a growing number of policy leaders, corporations and businesses across all sectors, and healthcare decision-makers at all levels, who want to learn more about how they can support solutions to this crisis and become better maternal and reproductive health equity champions.

We want to see this momentum grow beyond awareness of the maternal healthcare crisis. That’s because maternal death is preventable and there are culturally congruent and health equity-rooted solutions that can make a difference.

Learn how to donate to and fundraise for BMMA.

More on Black Maternal Health:

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.