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Arkansas ranks 3rd for pregnancy-related deaths, study shows Black mothers disproportionately impacting

The report shows that in 2018, Black women birthed 19% of Arkansas' babies and made up 37% of the pregnancy-related deaths in Arkansas.

ARKANSAS, USA — Arkansas ranks third in the nation for pregnancy-related deaths. According to a recent report, those deaths are disproportionately impacting Black mothers. 

The Arkansas Maternal Mortality Review Committee released a new report breaking down the numbers. 

The report shows that in 2018, Black women birthed 19% of Arkansas' babies and made up 37% of the pregnancy-related deaths in Arkansas. 

"This should be a wake-up call and a stark call to action to address maternal health in Arkansas," Dr. Creshelle Nash with Blue Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield said.

According to the research, Black mothers are 2.3 times more likely to die than white mothers during labor. Several factors contribute to statistics inside and outside the healthcare system. 

“We do not have providers everywhere we need them in the state," Dr. Nash said. "Some areas don’t have a hospital you can give birth in, and some areas don’t have OBGYNS. And then when you look inside the healthcare system, women of color don’t get the same quality of care as everyone else.”

In Arkansas, there are no Black licensed midwives. Two women in central Arkansas are looking to change that. 

While seeking certification as midwives, Nicole Fletcher and Sarita Hendrix started Ujima Maternity Network. Their goal is to help alleviate fears of death among pregnant Black women. 

“You shouldn’t have to think about, am I going to survive this or will my baby survive this," Nicole said. "But that’s what we’re hearing of women around the state.”

She told 5NEWS that trust and emotional support could lower the high maternal death rate. 

“A huge portion of that is creating space for women to see other women that look like them as practitioners and as people that can serve them," Nicole said. 

With that margin of comfortability, patients can communicate and advocate for themselves, and doctors can provide better care to help prevent 92% of deaths caused by preventable illnesses. 

“All the data and statistics we are talking about are alarming and scary," Dr. Nash said. "The good news is they found in their review that 92% of the deaths were potentially preventable. That means there’s something we can do about it.”

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