Black Maternal Health
Topic write up

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NIH LogoPersons of color bear a disproportionate share of maternal deaths. This is due to a number of factors including a lack of inclusion and the historical injustices of BIPOC groups in medical research. The National Institutes of Health want to change that.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the nation’s medical research agency — making important discoveries that improve health and save lives. NIH is made up of 27 Institutes and Centers, each with a specific research agenda, often focusing on particular diseases or body systems.

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Maternal death rates are increasing and significantly for Black women. 

Maternal Mortality rates, by race and Hispanic origin, United States, 2018-2021A maternal death is defined by the World Health Organization as “the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and the site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management, but not from accidental or incidental causes."

In 2020, the maternal mortality rate for non-Hispanic Black (subsequently, Black) women was 55.3 deaths per 100,000 live births, 2.9 times the rate for non-Hispanic White (subsequently, White) women. [NCHS Health E-Stats - February 2022].

In 2021, the maternal mortality rate for non-Hispanic Black (subsequently, Black) women was 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, 2.6 times the rate for non-Hispanic White (subsequently, White) women (26.6) [NCHS Health E-Stats. March 2023]

National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality, March 2023

Book cover image of Killing the Black BodyThe Origins of Reproductive Justice is important for understanding and reconciling the history of black maternal health in the United States.

In 1997, Killing the Black Body, a groundbreaking book, made a powerful entrance into the national conversation on race exposing America’s systemic abuse of Black women’s bodies. WorldCat

Advocate for Her

Advocacy, policy change, and addressing racism can all improve maternal health in BIPOC groups. How to start? Listen, learn, and share.

Use the NNLM Birthing Persons Toolkit. It includes messages, hashtags, graphics, and handouts to support library staff with health information for birthing persons. These carefully selected resources are to help patrons make informed choices about pregnancy care.

The National Maternal Health Hotline provides 24/7, free, confidential support before, during, and after pregnancy. Download and use these free materials, both in English and Spanish, to help promote.

Image for the CDC Hear Her Campaign: Help Prevent Pregnancy-Related Deaths

HEAR™ HER is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's campaign to raise awareness of maternal mortality. Translated into multiple languages, help share their resources to save lives.

The National Partnership for Women & Families is a national, non-profit, non-partisan organization that works to change policy and culture. They spotlight the stories and raise a call-to-action in support of Black Maternal Health.

The mission of the Maternal Health Learning and Innovation Center (MHLIC) is to foster collaboration and learning among diverse stakeholders to accelerate evidence-informed interventions advancing equitable maternal health outcomes through engagement, innovation, and policy. 

The Black Women's Health Imperative is dedicated to promoting physical, mental and spiritual health and well-being for the nation’s 19.5 million African American women and girls.

The National Birth Equity Collaboration creates transnational solutions that optimize Black maternal, infant, sexual, and reproductive wellbeing. We shift systems and culture through training, research, technical assistance, policy, advocacy, and community-centered collaboration.

Every Mother Counts works to achieve quality, respectful, and equitable maternity care for all by giving grants and working with partners and thought leaders to increase awareness and mobilize communities to take action. They also make content, tools, and resources accessible.

Featured Books
Title: Battling Over Birth
Author Black Women Birthing Justice
Publisher Praeclarus Press
Year published 2018
Book image Battling Over Birth book cover
Title: Medical Bondage
Author Deirdre Cooper Owens M.D.
Publisher University of Georgia Press
Year published 2021
Book image Medical Bondage book cover
Title: Motherhood So White
Author Nefertiti Austin
Publisher Sourcebooks
Year published 2019
Book image Motherhood So White book cover
Title: Oh, Sis, You're Pregnant!
Author Shanicia Boswell
Publisher Mango
Year published 2021
Book image Oh, Sis, You're Pregnant book cover
Title: Pregnant While Black
Author Monique Rainford M.D.
Publisher Broadleaf Books
Year published 2023
Book image Pregnant While Black book cover
Title: Reproductive Injustice
Author Dána-Ain Davis
Publisher NYU Press
Year published 2019
Book image Reproductive Injustice book cover
Title: That Kind of Mother
Author Rumaan Alam
Publisher Ecco
Year published 2019
Book image That Kind of Mother book cover
Title: Under the Skin
Author Linda Villarosa
Publisher Doubleday
Year published 2022
Book image Under the Skin book cover
Title: We Live for the We
Author Dani McClain
Publisher Bold Type Books
Year published 2019
Book image We Live for the We book cover

Terms of use: Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM) staff offer these health discussion resources for educational use. The materials included do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the author, publisher, or the sponsoring agencies of the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).