Black women in Illinois are 6 times more likely to die during childbirth, study says

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Health risks that come with being pregnant are amplified for black women, including the number of women who die during childbirth.

According to a new report card by the March of Dimes, African American women have the highest maternal mortality rates in Illinois, but new funding could be coming to bring that number down.

“I just want to make sure that our health care is important, just as everyone else’s is as well,” said Miranda Tingle, who serves as the Director of Constituent Services for Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-17th).

Tingle is 8 months pregnant, and says it was critical for her to find an OB/GYN who understood her needs, for both her health and her baby’s.

“There are a lot of social barriers, including transportation, including child care, including financial status… a lot of factors contribute to why [African American mothers] don’t show up to their visits, and they don’t have good outcomes in their pregnancies,” said Dr. Antoun Al Khabbaz, of Crusader Clinic.

In the United States, African American women are three to four times more likely than other women to die during childbirth. In Illinois, that ratio is six times higher.

“It’s our job, as medical providers and as a community, to work and find a way to decrease the discrepancy and lower the maternal mortality rate in all populations, especially in the African American population,” Al Khabbaz said.

Bustos and fellow Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (D-14th) introduced an act in Congress which would provide up to $25 million in grants to local communities. The money would partially be used to reduce mother mortality rates.

“We have to recognize that everyone is not walking in equal circumstances, and that the [African American] community doesn’t receive and respond to them equally, so we had a rich conversation today,” Underwood said.

Tingle says she remains optimistic that she’ll see positive changes in the black community.

“I think that it’s important for people to be able to walk into an office and see someone that looks like them,” she said. “It’s more relatable, and I know (they) understand what I’m going through, and that (they) really care about me.”

Along with maternal health, the March of Dimes says babies in Winnebago County are being born early, with the area having one of the worst pre-term birth rates in Illinois, at 11.2 percent.

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