Woman Who Died While Giving Birth Reignites Conversation About Higher Mortality Rates Among Pregnant Women of Color

by Xara Aziz
Courtesy: Mykesha Mack

A pregnant woman who complained to nurses about pain in her legs while delivering her baby has died, causing a firestorm among the Black community who say the incident undermines an ongoing conversation about women of color who are more likely to die while giving birth.

In January, journalist Aaricka Washington said that a tweet about April Valentine caught her eye. A woman had tweeted that Valentine, her best friend, died under medical care at Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood during labor. Valentine had informed medical staff about her legs. She would end up dead by the end of the night. Valentine’s daughter survived the incident.

After seeing the tweet, Washington decided to begin interviewing family and friends of Valentine along with her colleague Mariana Dale.

“As a Black woman who is the same age as Valentine at the time of her death, this hit home,” Washington wrote in an article for LAist. “There was something I kept hearing from her loved ones that deeply concerned me.”

Washington found through research that Valentine knew about the odds pregnant Black women face while pregnant so the victim was adamant about having a doula as well as a Black physician to deliver her child.

“Valentine knew how to speak up for herself,” Washington reported. “She posted positive affirmations for a healthy pregnancy in her house. She had a birth plan. It seemed like Valentine did everything right. And yet, her pregnancy still ended in tragedy.”

In an interview with Valentine’s partner, Nigha Robertson, he said that he now has to live with the fact that he will have to celebrate his daughter’s birth while reliving the tragedy of her mother’s death on the same day.

“Every time I look at my daughter…it is never going to get old,” Robertson said. “How do I explain to my daughter that the same day you get to celebrate a birthday, you have to celebrate the day your mama left?”

If you or someone you know is pregnant and seeking resources to deliver a safe baby, please visit here for a list of organizations working to protect women of color during and after childbirth.

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