Racism and Maternity Care

Racism and Maternity Care

Institutionalised racism undermines the quality of health care for black mothers, who have a much higher mortality rate than white mothers, even when they have similar levels of education or socioeconomic background.

African-American women living in the United States are nearly four times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth than white women, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC reports that while the mortality rate for white women is 12.7 per 100,000, the rate for black women is 43.5. In the first year of life of black babies, their mortality rate is 11.3 per 1,000, while it is 4.9 per 1,000 for white babies.

In this context, American journalist, author and speaker Kimberly Seals Allers (co-founder of Black Breastfeeding Week) has created the Irth App in 2019, a yelp-like platform to review and rate pre- and postnatal maternity care experiences for women of colour, which aims at making accountability of the medical system in relation to racism public.

“The medical system has operated without any transparency or public accountability, particularly for black women who die disproportionately in hospitals during and after childbirth. Our database turns their qualitative experiences into quantitative data to identify patterns and behaviours as we harness the collective power of black consumers and consumers of colour to drive social change,” says Seals Allers.

Irth’s focus is on turning collective experiences into meaningful data that drives change within health systems. “Transparency, public accountability and data are the way to drive institutional change,” according to the founder.

Seals Allers will participate in the 1st LactApp Medical Congress this May with her keynote speech ‘”No Mother Left Behind—Reducing Racial Disparities in Breastfeeding Rates.”‘. You can follow her lecture live or recorded up to 30 days later, with the possibility of translation into Spanish.

Kimberly Seals Allers is also the author of the bestselling book “The Big Letdown – How Medicine, Big Business, and Feminism Undermine Breastfeeding” an essential read to understand how sociopolitical and economic forces set up all mothers and especially those of colour and lower incomes, to fail in their breastfeeding journey.

If you are a member of a professional association, you can ask now for your conference registration discount by emailing [email protected].


  1. Say L, Chou D, Gemmill A, Tunçalp Ö, Moller A-B, Daniels J, et al. Global causes of maternal death: a WHO systematic analysis. Lancet Glob Health. 2014;2(6):e323-33.
  2. World Health Organization. Maternal mortality [Internet]. [cited 2021 Jan 7]. Available from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/maternal-mortality
  3. Rahman A, Surkan PJ, Cayetano CE, Rwagatare P, Dickson KE. Grand challenges: integrating maternal mental health into maternal and child health programmes. PLoS Med. 2013;10(5):e1001442.

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