African-American, Native American, and Alaska Native women are nearly three times more likely to die from health issues arising before or immediately after pregnancy than white women, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The study also shows that 60% of all pregnancy-related deaths can be prevented with better health care, communication, and support, as well as access to stable housing and transportation.
Despite repeated calls for improved access to medical care for women of color, racial bias within the health care system continues to contribute to a high number of pregnancy-related deaths among minority women.
Causes of Death
The new CDC study found that obstetric emergencies involving complications such as severe bleeding caused most of the deaths during delivery. From the day of delivery through the sixth day after delivery, though, disorders related to high blood pressure were responsible for most of the deaths among minority women.
Other major findings in the study include the following.
- Cardiovascular disease – which could include heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, heart failure, abnormal heart beat, or heart valve problems – is a leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths. This is despite the fact that cardiovascular disease is not typically associated with young pregnant women.
- Heart disease and strokes cause more than one-third of pregnancy-related deaths.
- Events that affect the blood vessels and blood supply to the brain, such as strokes, are the most common cause of death during the first six weeks after delivery.
- Heart disease, which affects African-American women at a higher rate than any other ethnic group, may be present before pregnancy, but may also appear during pregnancy. If heart disease goes undetected, it could become worse after the baby is born.
- More deaths among African-American women occurred seven weeks to a year after delivery when compared to white women.
What to Do If You Suspect a Problem
Pregnant women and new mothers should immediately seek medical care if they develop chest pain, shortness of breath, heavy bleeding, or a slow-healing C-section incision. Redness or swelling on the leg could indicate a blood clot. Fever could be a sign of infection. Even headaches could be a warning sign that should not be ignored.
The changes brought on by pregnancy can worsen underlying health problems, and may increase the risk of developing other health issues after pregnancy. If you are experiencing any of these problems, don’t ignore them. Get medical help immediately. You can also call our experienced medical malpractice lawyers at 800-794-0444 for free legal advice. Don’t wait. Contact us today.