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The health crisis facing Black moms and their babies in the DC area – WTOP News



In the D.C. region, Black mothers are more likely than white moms to deliver their babies prematurely.

In the D.C. region, Black mothers are more likely than white moms to deliver their babies prematurely.

In fact, according to a 2023 report by the March of Dimes, in Maryland, Virginia and D.C., the preterm birthrate was anywhere from 1.4 to 1.8 times higher for Black moms compared to the rate among all other babies born.

“In the case of D.C., Maryland, Virginia, it’s very often Black women who are carrying the burden of poor outcomes,” said Mallory Mpare-Quarles, director of maternal and infant health initiative at the D.C.-area’s March of Dimes.

The report from the advocacy organization also graded states and cities based on the preemie statistics and that resulted in the region scoring between a “C” and “C-,” according to Mpare-Quarles.

“These are not the rates that we hope to see in the DMV,” Mpare-Quarles said.

Preterm births, according to the organization, increase the risk that an infant will not survive. With the preterm birthrates being about 10% in the D.C. region, the infant mortality rate is also higher among Black infants.

Mpare-Quarles said some of the factors include the struggles for moms-to-be to get to important doctor’s appointments during their pregnancy.

“Women in D.C. are taking maybe one or two buses to get to their provider and we know that’s a real barrier,” she said.

Another issue, she said, is a need for more implicit bias training in the health care industry, because she said that has also played a role in some woman not seeking checkups during pregnancy.

Elizabeth Kemp Caulder, of Maryland, said she saw that issue firsthand, when she went to the hospital 12 years ago after her water broke as she carried triplets.

“I didn’t get immediate care in the emergency room because they continued to try to tell me that my water hadn’t broken and perhaps I was using the bathroom,” Caulder said.

She and her husband went to another hospital, where she said staff listened and agreed she was going into labor. Her daughter Victoria’s heart stopped before she was delivered five days later. That was followed by her son, Ronald Jr., coming into the world before his lungs were developed enough to allow him to breath.

“I was able to hold him while he was fighting for air and he passed away,” Caulder said.

Her third son, William, survived. She said she believes better care during her first ER visit could have changed the outcome.

“If I had the right care immediately, it’s absolutely possible that the life of Victoria could have been saved, and then the chain reaction that took place as a result,” Caulder said.

March of Dimes, according to Mpare-Quarles, offers implicit bias classes to help health care providers. She said Maryland has laws on the books requiring perinatal care providers to do implicit bias training.

In Maryland, Mpare-Quarles said that with a high immigrant population comes a need to provide easier access to health care coverage, which she believes would also encourage lifesaving prenatal care. She said both states and D.C. have or are working on expanding Medicaid to cover more.

Mpare-Quarles said turning the tide on this will take a complex solution because it is a complex problem.

“It really will require a number of partners, systems, a number of allies and advocates to really engage with this issue for us to see the progress that we hope to see,” Mpare-Quarles said.

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