Georgia families of color in maternal health ‘crisis situation,’ advocates say

ATLANTA — Advocates say Georgia has a maternal mortality crisis, due to how many mothers are dying in or after childbirth in the state.

Ahead of Mother’s Day this weekend, WSB-TV’s Gets Real is looking at how the problem is especially devastating for families of color.

In the metro Atlanta area, advocates are mapping out the challenges of maternal health and mortality with data and ideas.

Advocates at a United Way event said when “you hear maternal mortality and most people don’t know what that means.”

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“When we’re looking at black women- we’re really in a crisis situation,” said Tamara Mason with March of Dimes told Channel 2′s Linda Stouffer. “Black women are three times more likely, depending on where you live, to die of pregnancy complications as compared to white women.”

March of Dimes publishes report cards for each state when it comes to pre-term births and tracks maternal death rates. The organization gave Georgia an “F” for pre-term births and said the state was worse than the national average.

While the United States has a 10.4% rate for pre-term births, Georgia has 11.9%, according to the organization.

The organization also reported that African American mothers had a 14.9% pre-term birth rate.


In five core Atlanta metro counties, the pre-term birth rates ranged between F and D+.

March of Dimes reported that in Clayton and Fulton counties, pre-term birth rates had “F” grades, with 13.3% and 11.7% pre-term births, respectively.

Cobb County received a “D” grade with 11.1%, while DeKalb County had a “D-” and Gwinnett County had a “D+.” While the rates had actually improved in Clayton and Fulton counties, March of Dimes reported the rates had gotten worse in Cobb and DeKalb counties, while Gwinnett County remained unchanged.

The City of Atlanta also received an “F” for its 11.9% pre-term birth rate, which March of Dimes reported was worse than the year before.

“It starts with the mom and the entire community,” Jemea Dorsey, Center for Black Women’s Wellness, said.

Dorsey told Channel 2 Action News that having conversations about women’s health and wellness, and the gaps between women of color and white women, lead to improved access, better care and more awareness of the challenges impacting mothers.

Channel 2 Action News also learned that half of Georgia’s 159 counties do not have an OB-GYN.

“Connect moms with postpartum care, prenatal care, remove barriers, essentially support, support moms, support families,” Dorsey said.

Advocates for maternal health say more new mothers will be around to help their children grow up with better health monitoring after moms and babies go home from the hospital.

When complications do come up, quicker access to medical care will help too.

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