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Black women face increased risk of dying in childbirth

Imagine experiencing the thrill of seeing your wife give birth to a much-loved infant, then just hours later seeing the life slip away from her as she bled out from an undetected birth injury. The distraught widower had only time to capture the baby's first moments of life with his mother before she succumbed to internal bleeding from the lacerated bladder that occurred during her cesarean section.

But the damage was done, and despite the husband pleading with the doctors for eight hours that something was amiss, her bleeding went undetected until she crashed and was rushed into emergency surgery.

By then it was too late. The young mother of two became just another childbirth statistic in the United States, which leads developed nations with the most pregnancy-related fatalities, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) reports.

Each year, approximately 700 women in our country die from complications from the pregnancies or during or shortly after giving birth. What is particularly sinister is that there is a much higher incidence of maternal deaths among women of color. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined that fully half of those 700 lives could have been saved and that black mothers have as much as four times the fatality rate of white women throughout their pregnancies and childbirth.

It would be easy to tie those higher rates to a dearth of income or educational opportunities. Yet, the tennis powerhouse Serena Williams and megastar Beyoncé — both women of color and also of great wealth — experienced life-threatening issues during childbirth.

So, what causes these high rates? The president of ACOG acknowledges there "incredibly significant . . . disparities in maternal mortality."

Black women's complaints of pain and infection may not be taken as seriously as white women's. Women of color frequently have stories that describe dangerous disparities in health care that fall along racial and gender lines.

Did you experience a life-threatening childbirth complication? If so, you may be able to seek financial compensation for any injuries that were due to a medical provider's negligence.

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