Maternal Mortality | St. Louis Public Radio

Maternal Mortality

Maliyah Isadora and her mother Courtney at their home in Florissant in this 2015 photo.
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Black infants in St. Louis County are more than twice as likely to die as white infants, according to a new report.

The first Maternal and Child Health Profile, released today at Washington University’s Institute for Public Health conference, highlights troubling racial disparities in the health of moms and babies in St. Louis County. Health officials acknowledge these persistent issues, but also point to progress in other areas — including declines in teen pregnancy.

Gena Stringer labors in the hospital with doula Benetta Ward as Brittany Ferrell captures the moment for her film project.
Provided | Brittany Ferrell

When a Ferguson police officer killed Michael Brown in 2014, St. Louisan Brittany Ferrell left nursing school to join the protests. Five years later, she’s pouring her activism into another outlet: a film project.

“You Lucky You Got a Mama” focuses on how African Americans are three times as likely to die from pregnancy-related complications and childbirth as white women.

Ferrell wants to show people that the higher risk to African Americans is a complicated situation with a simple cause.

“Let’s name it for what it is, and it’s racism,” Ferrell said. “It’s racial bias.”

April Thomas (left) and Cory Lampkin (right) visited Jamaa Birth Village with their daughter Addisonkori in March. March 4, 2019.
Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

Brittany "Tru" Kellman sometimes starts her day two hours before Jamaa Birth Village opens at 10 a.m., stashing diapers and snacks for the dozens of people who will come through the Ferguson nonprofit’s doors. She gives everyone a hug when she meets them.

Jamaa is different from other pregnancy clinics. It provides care for women of color by women of color. After traumatic experiences as a teen mom, Kellman was determined to create a better alternative for black women.

“Creating Jamaa Birth Village is a kind of a re-creation of the type of care and support I gave myself when the system failed me,” said Kellman, the center’s founder.

According to the new study, a woman's weight before her first pregnancy may have long-term effects.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases | National Institutes of Health

Intense stress faced by new moms can also affect the emotional development of their baby. That's a good reason to expand Medicaid coverage to low-income mothers, a St. Louis child psychiatrist argued Tuesday.

“If you want to have healthy infants, you have to have healthy caregivers,” Dr. Cynthia Rogers told an assembly of physicians at Washington University. “And the preterm brain is particularly vulnerable.”

Dr. Matthew Broom, Kim Martino Sexton and Rena Ciolek joined St. Louis on the Air to discuss postpartum depression.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis on the Air

Research by the Centers for Disease Control finds that one in nine women experience postpartum depression, a depression that occurs after having a baby. Some postpartum depression experiences last longer and are felt in different ways than others.

Dr. Matthew Broom, SLUCare pediatrician at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital said that anywhere between 15 and 30 percent of women experience some sort of postpartum depression.

Dr. Shilpa Babbar, an OB-GYN physician for SLUCare in St. Louis County.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio.

Twice as many United States women are dying in childbirth today as in 1990, even though all other wealthy nations have seen declines in maternal mortality rates.

Rising rates of obesity and women having children later in life may help explain the rising number of deaths, said Dr. Shilpa Babbar, who specializes in high-risk pregnancies at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital in St. Louis County.