Black moms and America’s infant mortality crisis

The facts are alarming!!!

Unfortunately, there is one undisputed truth in America: Black mothers and their babies die at an astonishing rate during childbirth. Compared to their white counterparts, even across class lines, the difference is staggering.

Even during their prenatal appointments, black women are treated incredibly poorly. Their concerns are ignored and downplayed by the doctors; medical staff treat them roughly; Not to mention the institutionalized and systemic racism that Black people in general endure throughout American society, which, for Black women, is compounded by experiences of sexism.

The story of Simone Landrum

One of the most recent comprehensive investigations into the crisis in infant mortality rates in the United States was the New York Times magazine cover story, “Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life or Life Crisis.” death”, written by the journalist Linda Villarosa (a mother herself).

The lead article, which came out in April 2018, detailed both the accumulated research that has shown the crisis exists, as well as followed the personal journey of Simone Landrum, a black mother who suffered the tragic experience of giving birth to a stillborn baby. due to medical complications that were possibly quite preventable.

Despite defending herself on multiple occasions with her doctor, recounting her serious symptoms, including severe swelling, severe headaches, and sensitivity to light, her doctor ignored her pleas for help, instead telling her to calm down and just take Tylenol. . After Landrum later tracked down his medical file, he also revealed that the same office had measured his blood pressure, which indicated an alarmingly high reading, so no action was taken.

This neglect led to Landrum eventually losing her baby due to complications related to her extremely high blood pressure. The article then follows Landrum’s journey of becoming pregnant again, this time with the support of a doula, who helped her process her complaint and move toward delivering a healthy baby.

The Big Picture in America

Unfortunately, Simone Landrum’s story is just one of many. Countless studies have demonstrated the fact that black mothers are treated substantially worse than white mothers during their pregnancies.

Villarosa’s article references several shocking statistics, including:

  • “In 1960, the United States ranked 12th among developed countries in infant mortality. Since then, with its rate driven largely by black infant deaths, the United States has fallen behind and now ranks 32nd among the 35 richest nations.
  • “Black babies in the United States are now more than twice as likely to die as white babies: 11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared to 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data.”
  • “…black women in their twenties had higher than normal teens, presumably because they were older and stress had more time to affect their bodies. For white mothers, the opposite was shown: adolescents had the highest risk of infant mortality, and women in their 20s the lowest.”
  • “…few in the field now dispute that the black-white disparity in infant deaths is not related to the genetics of race but to the lived experience of race in this country.”

These statistics and findings are startling: It is an undeniable fact that Black mothers and their babies face dramatically different obstacles and outcomes.

Americans and our politicians enjoy promoting our international standing and prestige. So it is deeply shameful that despite leading the world in many areas, we seem to have forgotten the lives and dignity of black women and their babies.

How can we boast of freedom when black women and their babies do not have the same freedom to receive fair medical treatment? This crisis is widespread and serious, and it is time for Americans to realize how serious it is.

How can you arm yourself for this difficult battle?

No matter how unfair this situation is, the unfortunate reality is that Black mothers have yet to try to navigate this broken system despite the barriers they face. If you are facing this struggle yourself, we have compiled some tips on how you can actively work to counter the incredible amount of prejudice and discrimination within America today:

1. Look for community organizations that work to support Black mothers in your state.

Times magazine article specifically follows the work of Birthmark Doulas; a New Orleans collective that provides care to women of diverse backgrounds and classes. Her doula services are available for a fee, on a sliding scale, or even at no cost to low-income women.

The Time magazine story follows Simone Landrum’s journey and how her doula, Latona Giwa, supported her through her last pregnancy, during labor and even after delivery. The story illustrates how Giwa provided much-needed emotional support and how she literally advocated for Landrum during her delivery when she was treated poorly by the medical team.

This means that organizations like Birthmark Doulas can help you in a system that is stacked against you, to say the least. Whether or not you can afford your fees, this can be an invaluable resource for you to receive more personalized and responsive care. Find community organizations in your area, through an Internet search, or with your own doctor.

2. Make a conscious effort to stand up for yourself during medical appointments.

Whether you have a doula or not, it’s always a good idea to express your needs and concerns during your medical appointments. It’s sad that this is the reality, but chances are many doctors can dismiss your concerns and ignore your symptoms, even when deep down they know they’re serious.

Again, it’s a grim reality, but to protect your own health and the health of your baby, be sure to stand up for yourself during your doctor’s appointments.

If your doctor seems dismissive, repeat your concerns: For example, “I know you’re not worried about this symptom, but I really think it’s serious. Could you do more tests or refer me to a specialist for a second opinion?” Your doctor may be defensive or angry with you, but know that you have every right to speak up for yourself when you think you’re being treated unfairly.

If you’re nervous about doing this alone, maybe bring your partner, a family member, a close friend, or even your doula to your appointments so they can intervene if they notice you’re being treated unfairly. Again, it’s wrong that you even need to take these extreme measures in the first place, but being your own advocate can help mitigate the discrimination you may face.

3. Practice some relaxation techniques to lower your stress levels.

High levels of stress are common not only in black mothers, but also in black women in general, most likely due to the social discrimination that you may face. This extreme amount of stress can have detrimental effects on both your own health and the health of your baby.

An excellent article on titled “We need to rethink what we tell Black moms about coping with stress” explains Many ways in which you can try to lower your stress levels. The authors, Aisha Collins and Fatima Varner, write down their own research and what they have learned.

Note that for some women, full attention they can be effective. This is one of the most common recommendations doctors make for coping with stress, and it has some merit.

But interestingly, they note that, in their own survey, it was found that for black women, prayer appears to be more effective. They also point out that, in terms of methods, trying to “pray with gratitude” seems to be more effective than prayers focused on one’s mistakes.

Therefore, consider adding mindfulness meditation or some form of prayer to your life. If you prefer prayer, try reflecting on the things you are grateful for in your life. It could seriously help your stress levels.


My hope as a mother and freelance journalist is that this article has provided you with much-needed information about the current infant mortality crisis in America. Remember that you deserve the best medical care possible, and unfortunately you may have to speak up a lot to get it. My book soon to be released: Our Fault: The Infant Mortality Rate and the Black Community; will go deeper. Reflect, always seek resources in your local community first, stand up for yourself, and do your best to reduce your stress levels through things like prayer, meditation, and thanksgiving; Anyway, cheer up because there is hope!