Addressing Maternal Mortality in New York City

Art by Wilma Johnson

Maternal mortality, or the death of a mother from pregnancy-related complications while she is carrying or within 42 days of childbirth, is a growing crisis in the U.S. While the global maternal mortality rate dropped by 44 percent between 1990 and 2015, the U.S. was one of only 13 countries, including North Korea and Zimbabwe, that saw its rate increase.

Nationwide, the CDC found that the maternal death rate for Black women was more than double that of white women (37.1 deaths per 100,00 live births versus 14.7). In 2016, New York was ranked 30th in the nation for its maternal mortality rate. Maternal deaths increased from 15.4 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2001–2003 to 19.6 deaths in 2014–2016.

In New York State, Black women are almost four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. Things are even more dire in New York City where, from 2006 to 2010, Black women were 12 times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related causes.

It doesn’t have to be this way — maternal death is not an inevitability, especially in a country as wealthy as the U.S. The CDC Foundation estimates that over 60 percent of these deaths are preventable. Addressing this crisis begins with valuing women’s health, increasing access to healthcare and family planning services, and investing in low-income and minority communities.

We need to take bold and comprehensive action to protect and support mothers at every stage of pregnancy, from protections for workers attending prenatal visits to expanding doula support to increase hospital transparency and accountability in reporting critical data.

We are calling for the following measures to address the city’s maternal mortality epidemic:

Prenatal Care:

  • Promote and fund reproductive community health centers so that expectant parents can access healthy foods, secure stable housing, identify a doctor, and receive counseling services.
  • Enact stricter workplace protections for expectant parents so they can attend all prenatal visits without fear of losing their job or income.
  • Advocate for the expansion of paid leave and paid family leave.
  • Expand and support the New York State Doula Pilot Program, with a goal of enacting universal access to Doulas in New York City and State. Doulas guide, assist, and advocate for pregnant women, and the American Pregnancy Association reports that doulas can help decrease the overall C-section rate by half, the length of labor by 25%, and requests for an epidural by 60%. Ensure that doulas and midwives are fully reimbursed as primary care providers.
  • Ensure that doulas or other patient advocates can be present at in-person prenatal visits and delivery rooms.

Labor and Delivery:

  • Support alternative birthing options, including the use of midwives.
  • Mandate comprehensive and mandatory implicit bias training for all staff, including doctors and nurses, as well as implicit bias training in the curricula for all medical professionals.
  • Support and encourage the education of Black doctors. Research shows that Black patients experience better communication and overall care when they have Black doctors. Create scholarships and advocate for loan forgiveness programs to increase diversity in maternal healthcare.
  • Push for more accurate data and more transparency in reporting on maternal mortality and complications. Hospitals should report all maternal deaths as well as major birth complications with breakdowns by race.
  • Following the model of the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative, establish a robust data infrastructure to provide data to hospitals so they have real-time access to perinatal quality measures.
  • Require the NYC Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee to meet regularly, expand the scope of reviews, and publicly report on progress quarterly.

Postpartum Care:

  • Mandate city hospitals to provide follow-up care in the four months following delivery, including information about counseling services, how to handle depression, taking care of yourself after labor, and best practices for breastfeeding or formula.
  • Advocate for the extension of pregnancy Medicaid coverage from 60 days after birth to one full year, following the lead of states like Illinois.

Signers:

Tricia Shimamura, Candidate for City Council District 5

Jenny Low, Candidate for City Council District 1

Jordana Lusk, Candidate for City Council District 4

Rebecca Lamorte, Candidate for City Council District 5

Kim Moscaritolo, Candidate for City Council District 5

Sara Lind, Candidate for City Council District 6

Shaun Abreu, Candidate for City Council District 7

Maria Ordoñez, Candidate for City Council District 7

Ruth McDaniels, Candidate for City Council District 9

Sheba Simpson, Candidate for City Council District 9

Johanna Garcia, Candidate for City Council District 10

Jessica Haller, Candidate for City Council District 11

Abigail Martin, Candidate for City Council District 11

Mino Lora, Candidate for City Council District 11

Marjorie Velázquez, Candidate for City Council District 13

Pierina Sanchez, Candidate for City Council District 14

Yudelka Tapia, Candidate for City Council District 14

Ischia Bravo, Candidate for City Council District 15

Elisa Crespo, Candidate for City Council District 15

Latchmi Devi Gopal, Candidate for City Council District 15

John Sanchez, Candidate for City Council District 15

Althea Stevens, Candidate for City Council District 16

Amanda Farias, Candidate for City Council District 18

Darlene Jackson, Candidate for City Council District 18

Ingrid Gomez, Candidate for City Council District 21

Jaime-Faye Bean, Candidate for City Council, District 22

Evie Hantzopoulos, Candidate for City Council District 22

Felicia Kalan, Candidate for City Council District 22

Dr. Neeta Jain, Candidate for City Council District 24

Julia Forman, Candidate for City Council District 26

Hailie Kim, Candidate for City Council District 26

Julie Won, Candidate for City Council District 26

Aleda Gagarin, Candidate for City Council District 29

J Marcelle Lashley-Kaboré, Candidate for City Council District 29

Latoya Benjamin, Candidate for City Council, District 31

Monique Charlton, Candidate for City Council, District 31

Shaeleigh Severino, Candidate for City Council, District 32

Elizabeth Adams, Candidate for City Council District 33

Victoria Cambranes, Candidate for City Council District 33

Jen Gutiérrez, Candidate for City Council District 34

Crystal Hudson, Candidate for City Council District 35

Deirdre Levy, Candidate for City Council District 35

Regina Edwards, Candidate for City Council District 36

Alexa Aviles, Candidate for City Council District 38

Whitney Hu, Candidate for City Council District 38

Shahana Hanif, Candidate for City Council District 39

Ceclia Cortez, Candidate for City Council District 40

Rita Joseph, Candidate for City Council District 40

Nikki Lucas, Candidate for City Council District 42

Amoy Barnes, Candidate for City Council District 49

Selina Grey, Candidate for City Council District 49

Ranti Ogunleye, Candidate for City Council District 49

Tamika Mapp, State Committeewoman

Community Activists:

Ozzie Araujo

Sophia James

Irma Torres

Alexandra Snyder Charen

Sarah Gallagher

Bronte Kastenberg

Tricia is a mom, activist, and Social Worker running to represent District 5 on the New York City Council. Learn more about her campaign at: TriciaForNY.nyc

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