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Unmasking the Crisis: Confronting Chicago's Black Maternal Mortality Disparities


The accompanying image depicts a single Black mother and her child, without any text, and includes symbols that represent the various factors contributing to Black maternal mortality disparities in Chicago.
Maternal mortality disparities

The disparities in maternal mortality rates in Chicago are a pressing public health issue that requires immediate attention. By understanding and addressing the underlying causes and committing to systemic change, we can close this unacceptable gap and ensure that all birthing people in Chicago can experience a safe and healthy pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum period. Join us as we journey through how Chicago Volunteer Doulas plans to unpack this issue.


Tomorrow, we begin our countdown to Giving Tuesday. We hope to demonstrate how CVD is working to change the maternal mortality disparities in Chicago and beyond.


Chicago, a city known for its vibrant culture and storied history, also harbors a less celebrated distinction: a significant racial disparity in maternal mortality rates. Black birthing people in this city face a substantially higher risk of death related to pregnancy and childbirth compared to their counterparts of other races. CVD wanted to shed light on this critical issue, examining the factors contributing to these disparities and exploring potential solutions.


Understanding the Disparity

Maternal mortality refers to the death of a woman during pregnancy, childbirth, or within the postpartum period. While maternal mortality rates have declined globally, the United States, and particularly cities like Chicago, continue to see stark racial disparities. In Chicago, Black women are six times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than White women.


Contributing Factors

1. Access to Healthcare: One of the primary factors is the unequal access to quality healthcare. Many Black people in Chicago live in areas where high-quality prenatal care is scarce or unaffordable.

2. Underlying Health Conditions: Pre-existing health conditions like hypertension and diabetes, which are more prevalent in the Black community, increase the risk during pregnancy.

3. Socioeconomic Status: Economic disparities often result in inadequate nutrition, housing, and overall health care, which are crucial for a healthy pregnancy.

4. Bias and Discrimination in Healthcare: Studies have shown that systemic racism and bias in the healthcare system lead to Black women receiving lower quality care. Their complaints and symptoms are often dismissed or not taken as seriously as those of White women.

5. Stress: Chronic stress, often a result of racism and socioeconomic struggles, can negatively impact pregnancy outcomes.


Addressing the Issue

In tackling this issue, stakeholders need to take a multi-faceted approach. These actions include:


- Improving access to quality prenatal and postnatal care in Black communities.

- Educating healthcare professionals about implicit bias and cultural competency.

- Enhancing social support systems to alleviate the impact of socioeconomic challenges.

- Implementing policies that address the broader social determinants of health.


While many agencies and organizations are dedicated to improving the outcomes of Black maternal mortality and morbidity, there can never be too many entities working toward change. That's where Chicago Volunteer Doulas steps in. Come along with us on our end-of-year journey to unpack the issue our mission is centered around and to look closely at how we aim to provide solutions.


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