Black women in New Jersey are 7 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications

About 700 women in the United States die each year because of pregnancy or its complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

News 12 Staff

Apr 15, 2021, 2:26 AM

Updated 1,131 days ago

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About 700 women in the United States die each year because of pregnancy or its complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
One group of women in New Jersey is seeing stark numbers when it comes to birth disparities. Black women in New Jersey are seven times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications. Black Maternal Health Week is an initiative that was started to bring awareness to and to prompt solutions to these numbers.
Jacquelyn Gilbert is one of the lucky ones who is still alive and can share her story with other women.
“I have toddler twins. They’re going to be four in May. But I also had a miscarriage prior to my twins."
Five years ago, Gilbert miscarried when she was 11 weeks pregnant. She says that what she and other Black women experience when being treated is a lack of empathy and the feeling of not being heard.
“I went for a second opinion and that second doctor did not have any empathy. They were rushing the appointment, they checked the heartbeat really quickly,” Gilbert says.
Black women disproportionately lack necessary reproductive health care, leaving them vulnerable to pregnancy-related risk factors. When talking about morbidity and mortality, Black women are in the 40th percentile. Dr. Nicola Pemberton is the medical director at the Birth Center of New Jersey, and she hopes to be part of the solution.
“There are a lot of situations out there where women are struggling with being able to have that kind of level of access. We’re trying to be that beacon and be able to give that access and that education and ultimate empowerment to make better choices when it comes to preventable measures in pregnancy,” says Pemberton.
Earlier this year, the Nurture New Jersey Maternal and Infant Health Plan was launched by New Jersey's first lady Tammy Murphy. It's an initiative to reduce the state's high rates of maternal and infant mortality, and an attempt to close the gap on racial disparities.
“We shouldn’t have to experience what so many Black women are experiencing. But if I didn’t have health insurance, I would not have been able to go to those doctors’ appointments four or five times a week. Even if it is something that the high-risk doctor is recommending for the health of my children and for myself,” says Gilbert.
Pemberton said it's hard to pinpoint just one particular issue, whether it be social or financial. But she says that one issue has been a common denominator for some of her patients - and that's race-based biases from medical providers. She says that it could look like a lack of advocacy or not feeling heard by one’s doctor when they have concerns about their health.


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