The United Nations says racism and sexism underlie the high maternal mortality rates for black women

Medical school curricula, for example, include false claims that black women’s nerve endings are “less sensitive” and require less anesthesia, and that black women’s blood clots faster than white women’s, delaying treatment for serious bleeding, according to the report. . It also found that illustrations of childbirth were depicted in the pelvic anatomy of European women, which could cause unnecessary interventions when a non-white contrast was deemed “abnormal or too risky”.

“When a black woman dies in childbirth, whether in São Paulo or Bogota or New York, it is often due to her lifestyle or individual failure: She didn’t get there in time to see a doctor or a nurse, she made poor life decisions, she was vulnerable to certain conditions. “Then the world moves on,” said Dr. Kanem.

She said the new report “categorically refutes that”.

The overall maternal death rate of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in Latin America, North America and the Caribbean increased about 15 percent between 2016 and 2020, sparking officials’ interest in possible contributing factors, including race. There are more than 200 million people of African descent in the Americas – one in four in Latin America and the Caribbean, and one in seven in the United States and Canada.

Of the countries that present maternal mortality rates by race, the United States has the lowest overall mortality rate, but the racial disparities are the widest. Black women in the United States are three times more likely than white women to die during or shortly after childbirth. These problems persist across levels of income and education, with black women with college degrees still 1.6 times more likely to die in childbirth than white women who did not finish high school.

United Nations officials have urged medical schools to reexamine their curricula and hospitals to strengthen policies surrounding denial of care and ill-treatment of patients. Officials said medical teams should also consider innovative ways to help Black women overcome structural barriers that make it difficult to obtain adequate prenatal care, such as a lack of access to reliable transportation and insurance. The agency has suggested partnerships with several black traditional healers and midwives to help navigate ancient reservations.

The UN project also revealed a significant paucity of surveillance data, which likely prevents problems from becoming well known, she said. The report encouraged each country to strengthen its data collection efforts. Without a transparent view of the problem, the report said, it would be near impossible to design interventions to treat it.