The conversation about the quality of maternal health in the United States has suddenly become more urgent. In 2019 American women have more chance of dying in childbirth than women do in any other industrialized nation. The maternal mortality rate in 2007 was 55 percent higher than the rate reported in 1990, and it has only increased since then.
Why is this happening? How can we improve Maternal Health?
We asked Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, of the National Birth Equity Collaborative, about that. She recently gave her “Mothers’ Voices Driving Birth Equity” presentation at the Roy Wood Foundation Grantee Conference.
Although our conversation focused on maternal care, it branched out to the broader topic of health equity. “We have to have an honest conversation in this country that we have not had about racism and classism, and gender oppression,” Dr. Crear-Perry noted. “We have structures that are built on valuing certain people because of their skin color.”
Black women are more than twice as likely to die during childbirth than White women. According to Dr. Crear-Perry, this is partly because of the structural racism within the health care system, and partly because hospitals and doctors don’t listen to women.
“A lot of times what [women are] saying is: ‘they’re not listening to us. When I go into the doctor they don’t hear what I say. They’re disrespectful. They don’t believe my complaints are valid.’” Dr. Crear-Perry emphasized, “So we know in the global context there is a language called respectful care. What we haven’t done in the U.S. is create that context here. It’s disrespectful to not listen to a woman about her care. That’s why we want women to drive this conversation.”
There’s a lot more to this enlightening discussion. Be sure to listen to the podcast—and check out our website for more information on maternal care.