Black Women and Childbirth Mortality: Healthcare Worker Who Nearly Died During Pregnancy Says Doctors Ignored Her Complaints of Stomach Pain

by Xara Aziz
Credit: The Torah
Voiced by Amazon Polly

A woman who was well aware of the increased risks Black women face during childbirth decided she would become a public health instructor to teach young Black women about racial health disparities in the country. Little did she know that in 2019, she too, would become one of those women who almost lost her life while carrying a child.

Angelica Lyons told TIME in a riveting feature story that she suffered incapacitating stomach pain during her first pregnancy. She informed doctors about the pain, but they ignored her pleas for help, she said.

“Doctors and nurses told her she was suffering from normal contractions,” according to the report, “even as her abdominal pain worsened and she began to vomit bile. Angelica said she wasn’t taken seriously until a searing pain rocketed throughout her body and her baby’s heart rate plummeted.”

Lyons was rushed to the hospital where doctors performed an emergency cesarean section. Shortly before, she almost passed away when doctors appeared to miss that she had sepsis.

“Even more disheartening: Angelica worked at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the university affiliated with the hospital that treated her,” the report said.

Lyons’s story represents one of thousands of Black women, who are three times more likely to die from childbirth complications.

Such is the case for OkayMedia CEO and former CNN anchor Isha Sesay who made national headlines last November after she revealed she was set to give birth without a partner at the age of 46. As she awaited her delivery date she said she was leaving Los Angeles and moving to New York due to “concerns in healthcare” specifically as it relates to the morbid statistics about Black women and childbirth.

“Most of you know I’ve been in LA but I’m actually heading to New York and I’ll be there through the final trimester until my little one arrives,” she said in a video posted on Instagram. “The reasons for the move are complicated. They revolve around my concerns in healthcare and specifically Black women’s experiences here in the US with childbirth.”

She continued: “The data shows terrible things…that we’re three to four times more likely to die in childbirth than our white counterparts. Even when you strip our education and wealth, things more often go wrong for us.”

Furthermore “late maternal deaths—those occurring between six weeks and one year postpartum—were 3.5 times more likely among Black women than White women,” and “postpartum cardiomyopathy was the leading cause of late maternal death among all races, with Black women having a six-times-higher risk than white women.”

“It’s a really important issue that I’m definitely going to be talking about more in the days ahead,” Sesay wrote in the video’s caption “We all need to shine a light on this terrifying reality for pregnant black women in the US, so I hope you’ll join me for these critical conversations.”

Meanwhile, Lyons still suffers the pain from two surgeries she had to undergo following her emergency C-section. Three years later, the TIME report reads, her stomach remains disfigured.

“I love my child, I love him all the same but this isn’t the body I was born with,” Lyons said. “This is the body that they caused from them not paying attention to me, not listening to me.”

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