A doctor uses a hand-held Doppler probe on a pregnant woman to measure the heartbeat of the fetus on Dec. 17, 2021, in Jackson, Miss. COVID-19 drove a dramatic increase in the number of women who died from pregnancy or childbirth complications in the U.S. last year, a crisis that has disproportionately claimed Black and Hispanic women as victims, according to a report released Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022. Rogelio V. Solis/AP.

For many people, starting a family is a joyous time. But for some African American women, giving birth can be life threatening as an 8 year review of state data shows.

In Maryland, non-Hispanic Black women represented 54% of pregnancy-related deaths due to complications, according to Maryland Department of Health’s Maternal Mortality Review data collected between 2010 and 2018.

During that time frame, 137 women died during pregnancy due to complications, including 74 non-Hispanic Black women, which researchers say is a staggering reality and health disparity.

The most common pregnancy complication for Black women is severe bleeding, or hemorrhaging. Health officials also point to infections, internal stressors, and blood pressure disorders of pregnancy, including preeclampsia and eclampsia, as contributing and preventable factors.

And as the public turns its eye towards this issue, those involved say there are a couple of solutions to address the disparity.

Dr. Donna Strobino is a professor emeritus at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and has researched child and maternal health for five decades.

“It’s really important that this disparity has come into the forefront,” Strobino said. “It is probably the most unconscionable disparity that I see.”

Ana Rodney, is the executive director of MOMCARES, a Baltimore City-based organization that supports Black mothers during the birthing process. She began the nonprofit which provides free doulas for Black mothers after her own challenging birth experience.

Last month, MOMCARES gained prominence after the widow of actor and Baltimore native, Lance Reddick, asked fans to donate to the organization in his memory.

Read more at WYPR.

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