In California, as in much of the US, Black mothers/birthing people* experience the highest rates of maternal morbidity (serious complications) and mortality (death) of any racial/ethnic group. Despite impressive reductions in maternal mortality for all racial/ethnic groups in California, Black mothers/birthing people are still three to four times as likely to die (PDF) from pregnancy/birth-related causes and twice as likely to suffer a maternal morbidity (such as hemorrhage and infection) than those in all other racial/ethnic groups. These statistics are especially concerning given that maternal morbidity and mortality metrics are widely considered to be some of the most fundamental barometers of public health.
Importantly, these variations cannot be explained away by factors such as age, income, educational level, and health insurance status. Evidence points to implicit bias and racism, not race, as key causes of disparities in maternity care and maternal outcomes for Black mothers/birthing people. For example, a Black mother/birthing person with a college education is still twice as likely to die than a white counterpart with a high school education. Implicit biases and racism are known to exist both at the level of the health care system and at the individual provider level.
As found in the 2018 Listening to Mothers in California survey (PDF), our health care system does not listen to mothers in general; and Black mothers/birthing people in particular are among the least listened to, costing them their health and, in some cases, their lives.