CLEVELAND — When it comes to the health of new moms and their babies, data shows Ohio is moving in a positive direction, but it's nowhere near where it needs to be.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, 929 infants died before their first birthday in 2019. The infant mortality rate across all races was 6.9 per 1,000 live births. The number of white infants who died was 518, the lowest number in the past 10 years. There were 356 Black infant deaths in 2019, an increase of 17 from 2018. However, this is still lower than 2015, 2016, and 2017.
The rate for white babies was 5.1, and the rate for Black babies was nearly tripled at 14.3.
While data shows Ohio’s maternal mortality rate (14.7 per 100,000 deaths) is below the national rate (17.4 per 100,000), it also shows that Black mothers are disproportionately affected.
An ODH report said between 2008 and 2016, Black mothers died at a rate more than two and a half times that of white mothers.
“Sometimes we think of ourselves in the United States as being this leader, but we really have fallen behind when it comes to labor and delivery birth outcomes,” said India Robertson, Chief Training and Organizational Development Officer at Birthing Beautiful Communities.
Birthing Beautiful Communities is a Cleveland-based nonprofit made up of Black doulas who support women during and after pregnancy, and then train new doulas to join the effort.
“As the doulas, we are connecting with the women at their homes. And so what happens is when at the time that they go into the health clinic, they are really leaning on us for advocacy and for assistance,” Robertson said.
Robertson said having the help of a doula or midwife can help women feel empowered to make important health decisions, but doctors and medical facilities also need to provide options for women instead of one-size-fits all solutions, and listen to women when they say something is wrong.
“I think that one of the main issues is that sometimes there is still this vision that women are not able or capable of understanding their own bodies or that they are not being honest when they say that they are feeling something or that something is off or not OK, and so sometimes there's a miscommunication,” Robertson said. “And I think that the miscommunication is really more like ‘I'm communicating correctly, but maybe I'm not being trusted, that I'm able to communicate that correctly.’ And so that is what many of our clients report is that I said it but nobody really believed me. And so that's where we really could do a little bit of work.”
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