Black expecting moms, their babies struggle for survival in south Phoenix
PHOENIX — Pregnancy is a time for joy, wonder and anticipation. But for some expecting moms in south Phoenix, it’s a risky time.
African American women are about three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than their white, non-Hispanic counterparts, according to the community-based program South Phoenix Healthy Start.
Meloney Baty, the program’s director, said Black women living in south Phoenix are also more likely to develop health problems that result from being pregnant or giving birth. That includes preeclampsia, strokes and cardiac arrest.
“That can exaggerate or lead to significant negative effects on women’s health and wellbeing,” she told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “That may result in surgery, medical complications or even death.”
These expecting moms are not the only ones at risk. Their babies are also more likely to be born too early and too small.
Baty pointed out 12.8% of Black babies in south Phoenix are born prematurely and 12.5% are born underweight.
“This is one to two times higher than white babies in the rest of Maricopa County,” she said. “And that rate has steadily increased since 2013.”
Baty added these are factors that put babies at high risk for death. In fact, Black babies in south Phoenix are twice as likely to die before their first birthdays compared to their white, non-Hispanic counterparts.
There are numerous factors that create barriers for African American women in south Phoenix to carry a healthy baby to full term and for babies to make it to their first year of life.
Poverty is one of the biggest factors, according to South Phoenix Healthy Start, along with lack of access to healthy foods, prenatal care, employment opportunities, transportation and education.
“I don’t think that most people know about these statistics, and many of them are shocked when they hear this information,” Baty said. “That’s why programs like this are important to help us get the word out about this medical crisis.”
Her program offers a variety of services, ranging from classes on prenatal care and breastfeeding to case management and support groups.
“We walk alongside pregnant women and men as they’re going through the process of having a baby,” Baty said.
Learn more about South Phoenix Healthy Start and the services it offers online or by calling 602-372-1166.