(Trigger warning for poor obstetrical outcome)
Less than one week after I blogged about the maternal mortality crisis among black women in our country, I lost a friend. She was of Haitian descent, a fellow medical student, an aspiring ob/gyn, and a kind and wonderful person. She was eight months pregnant with her first baby, and newly married. We talked for a while last week about her taking time off, breastfeeding, and pumping when she got back to rotations. She was incredibly happy about becoming a mother.
She went into premature labor this weekend. She had a hemorrhagic stroke. She died. The baby is doing fine.
This was not an underprivileged woman by most definitions, at least not currently. She may have been raised in an impoverished home. The Haitian population in South Florida in general is devastatingly poor. She was well educated. She was not “advanced maternal age”. She was not a teen mother. She was not obese. She had good prenatal care and insurance. She had family support and was happy about her pregnancy. As far as I know, she had no health conditions, didn’t smoke, and didn’t do any drugs.
But, she was a black woman in America, which puts her at much higher risk of premature labor and death. In recent years, the maternal mortality rate for black women in Miami has been up to 10 times that of white women. We don’t completely understand why. Different delivery of care, early life malnutrition or lack of health care, the stress of racism, biological or genetic differences…these all may play a role.
But, right now what we do know is that a baby is born without a mother, and a husband is welcoming a new baby in his life with a dead wife, and no mother to help raise it. That is a horrible shame.