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A matter of life or death: DC has highest maternal mortality rate in US

DC has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the U.S. Research shows black women are a vunerable population.

DC has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the United States, according to the DC Council.

Federal data shows that the rate at which women in D.C. died from pregnancy-related causes is higher than any other state in the country, the DC Council said.

“Maternal mortality rates in the District indicate nothing short of a maternal health crisis," said Councilmember Charles Allen. "The District’s maternal mortality rate is far higher than in neighboring jurisdictions and the United States as a whole."

Councilmember Charles Allen introduced the Maternal Mortality Review Committee Establishment Act of 2017 last October. Allen wants to study the high mortality rates because there isn't enough data to tell us why the death rate is so high.

Aza Nedhari, a women's health professional and Executive Director of Mamatoto Village Inc, a family support organization, said this data is nothing new.

"Women have been receiving subpar care. Women have been not trusted when they go in, and they say that something's wrong and they have to advocate for themselves under situations of distress," Nedhari said.

RELATED: DC Council wants to study high maternal mortality rates in the city

There are racial disparities in maternal health. According to a report published by ProPublica and NPR, black women are more likely to die from childbirth, and their deaths are primarily responsible for the U.S.'s high maternal mortality rate overall.

"Black women are three to four times more likely to die from preventable issues in childbirth or shortly thereafter," Nedhari said. "Black women didn't just start dying from preventable things in the past year."

She said there is a history of systemic racism and oppression that contributes to the high death rate.

Her organization, Mamatoto Village, strives to help women survive childbirth.

"We believe in delivering care that is culturally specific. That black women are giving care to black women," Nedhari said. "Research has shown that when care is delivered by people who reflect the culture and experience of the people being served. Often the person is more willing, not only to trust but to engage in behavior change."

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Mamatoto Village is one of many black-owned maternal care businesses in the D.C. area, striving to make a change. Here is a list of some local organizations making an impact:

A Soulful Touch Wellness

Services: They have comprehensive women's health services including doula services and services related to PCOS, and Infertility.

Phone: (843) 564-2464

Email: ladawn@asoulfultouch.net

Birthing Hands of DC

Services: They provide holistic birth services including midwifery and doula services for families in D.C. Maryland and Northern Virginia.

Phone: (202) 236-1764

Email: Birthinghandsdc@gmail.com

Community of Hope DC

Services: Their services range from prenatal care, doula services, midwifery, breastfeeding and other postpartum services. They also provide newborn, pediatric care.

Phone: (202) 407-7747

Email: emarcelle@cohdc.org

Mamatoto Village Inc

Services: They serve women from pregnancy up until postpartum. Their services range from prenatal support to parenting support.

Phone: (202) 248-3434

Email: info@mamatotovillage.org

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