Black Babies Are Dying, And So Are Their Moms … What Can We Do About It?

The recent edition of The New York Times Magazine, the article “Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis” written by Linda Villarosa called out a disturbing and unnecessary truth: the discrepancy in death rates for black babies and mothers is not genetic or biological, instead it “has everything to do with the lived experience of being a black woman in America”.

There is perhaps no better day to draw more attention to this issue than Mother’s Day, a day created to celebrate mothers and their babies.

Here are the sobering facts written by Villarosa:

—Between 1915 and the 1990s, “amid vast improvements in hygiene, nutrition, living conditions and health care, the number of babies of all races who died in the first year of life dropped by over 90 percent — a decrease unparalleled by reductions in other causes of death. But that national decline in infant mortality has since slowed. In 1960, the United States was ranked 12th among developed countries in infant mortality. Since then, the rate is largely driven by the deaths of black babies.”

—The United States now ranks 32nd out of the 35 wealthiest nations in infant mortalities (most are black babies).

—Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants.

— 11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data — a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850.

— Black women are up to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes as their white counterparts.

It’s not just access to quality healthcare, it’s the ability/willingness of the healthcare professionals to treat every woman, whether black, white, Hispanic or otherwise the best possible way, in other words, to optimize care and to offer standardized care for all patients irrespective of race, ethnicity, or insurance status.

“Recently there has been growing acceptance of what has largely been, for the medical establishment, a shocking idea: For black women in America, an inescapable atmosphere of societal and systemic racism can create a kind of toxic physiological stress, resulting in conditions — including hypertension and pre-eclampsia — that leads directly to higher rates of infant and maternal death. “ And that societal racism is further expressed in a pervasive, longstanding racial bias in health care — including the dismissal of legitimate concerns and symptoms — that can help explain poor birth outcomes even in the case of black women with the most advantages.

Dr. Arline Geronimus, a professor in the department of health behavior and health education at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, “first linked stress and black infant mortality with her theory of ‘weathering.’ She believed that a kind of toxic stress triggered the premature deterioration of the bodies of African-American women as a consequence of repeated exposure to a climate of discrimination and insults. The weathering of the mother’s body, she theorized, could lead to poor pregnancy outcomes, including the death of her infant.”

So if “the black-white disparity in the deaths of babies is related not to the genetics of race but to the lived experience of race in this country,” the looming question is why? Why are black women having greatly poorer outcomes when genetics are not to blame?

First off, findings show “higher levels of preterm birth among women who reported the greatest experiences of racism.” Villarosa writes, “The bone-deep accumulation of traumatizing life experiences and persistent insults that the study pinpointed is not the sort of “lean in” stress relieved by meditation and “me time.”

“When a person is faced with a threat, the brain responds to the stress by releasing a flood of hormones, which allow the body to adapt and respond to the challenge. When stress is sustained, long-term exposure to stress hormones can lead to wear and tear on the cardiovascular, metabolic and immune systems, making the body vulnerable to illness and even early death.”

This is not mere speculation. The American Journal of Public Health published a study that showed that “persistent racial differences in health may be influenced by the stress of living in a race-conscious society. These effects may be felt particularly by black women because of [the] double jeopardy of gender and racial discrimination. Even when controlling for income and education, African-American women had the highest allostatic load scores — an algorithmic measurement of stress-associated body chemicals and their cumulative effect on the body’s systems — higher than white women and black men.”

Lynn Freedman, director of the Averting Maternal Death and Disability Program at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health says “Disrespect and abuse mean more than just somebody wasn’t nice to another individual person. There is something structural and much deeper going on in the health system that then expresses itself in poor outcomes and sometimes deaths.”

When black women are given access to support, education, and stress management as well as quality care, the death rates for both babies (most often linked to low birth weight) and mothers dramatically decline.

How can we be allowing this to happen in 2108 in the United States, among the richest nations on earth? And the even larger question is what can we do about this?

In my personal experience, black women are more likely to get inferior levels of care because they are more likely to be impoverished, have lower levels of or no health insurances at all, and therefore, have less access to optimal health care the way women with commercial health insurances have. In my personal opinion, we should have universal health care for all pregnant women with access to any physicians or hospitals they want to. That is how it works in all other advanced countries.  Choice of healthcare is taken away when you have inadequate insurance which is not accepted by the majority of physicians. If doctors have the choice to accept a patient with a much higher paying insurance as compared to someone with an insurance that pays much less, it is clear  whom doctors will prefer to accept. And whom they will reject.

Many clinics in hospitals accepting Medicaid patients or patients without insurance have the best of intentions, but it’s still inadequate compared to individualized care that pregnant women with commercial insurances obtain.

If there is one thing I wish for on Mother’s Day it would be that all women in the U.S .have the same insurance and can choose any doctor they want to see independent of their insurance status. And that doctors must accept all patients independent of their insurances.

How to make sure you eat food safely

There are always many opportunities to gather and share food, if it’s during the holidays or in between. Whether you eat in someone’s home, at work, or at a restaurant, it’s important to get educated and be careful about what you eat.

Food poisoning is a frequent occurrence and each year millions of people in the United States get sick from contaminated food. Symptoms of food poisoning may be mild or severe and may include upset stomach, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and dehydration.

Here are some general precautionary measures:

  • Buffets and the Two-Hour Rule: Perishable foods like meats should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Hot and Cold: Keep Hot Foods HOT and Cold Foods COLD.
  • Cold foods:  should be held at 40 °F or colder.
  • Leftovers:  Don’t forget to discard all perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, and casseroles left at room temperature longer than 2 hours.

Read here more

Placentophagy – Eating Placenta


The existing data on postpartum placental consumption is anecdotal and there are no scientific data on this subject. Cats and other animals may eat their placenta but there are no major human cultures who view placental ingestion as an essential part of the postpartum period. Use of the placenta in the postpartum period is re-gaining popularity among some women in the US, Canada and Europe for no good reason. 

In one review of placentophagy or placental eating the autors state that “maternal placentophagy may have had deleterious consequences for the overall fitness of mother, offspring, or both, leading to its elimination from our species’ behavioral repertoire.”

The CDC had a case report of a baby that developed late-onset GBS disease attributable to high maternal colonization secondary to consumption of GBS-infected placental tissue after birth. The baby was very sick and had to be admitted with sepsis. Heating for sufficient time at a temperature adequate to decrease GBS bacterial counts might not have been reached. Consumption of contaminated placenta capsules might have elevated maternal GBS intestinal and skin colonization, facilitating transfer to the infant.

In a review of cross-cultural traditions of 179 human societies the authors found a “… conspicuous absence of cultural traditions associated with maternal placentophagy..”. In other words, they found no human culture that includes eating placenta after birth. 

The placenta can be consumed in many ways, raw or cooked however placental encapsulation is presently the most popular method.  

During placental encapsulation, the placenta is steamed and then dehydrated for 8-10 hours and ground into a powder form at which time it is then filled into vegetable capsules. Other methods of encapsulation use only your placenta and no other ingredients and vary in the processing methods such as not steaming for raw consumption, etc.  During this process, heating may not reach adequate levels to destroy all bacteria.

Depending on varying factors, each placenta yields approximately 75-200 capsules and it is recommended that the refrigerated capsules be taken 2-4 times per day during the first 6 weeks of the postpartum period. If you consider placental encapsulation, please follow the exact instructions of the facility who prepared the capsules. 


As previously mentioned, there are no scientific data to support eating placenta such as placental encapsulation. Doulas and midwives who try to convince women that eating the placenta is beneficial (and who make money off placenta encapsulation), claim many things such as that it works against insomnia and postpartum depression, and that it can raise your energy and breast milk quantity. Nothing of his is true and there is no evidence whatsoever that these claims can be verified.  If there are any benefits of placental encapsulation it is that it makes money for those preparing the capsules, anything else is not scientifically proven.

Is the Placenta Considered Food?

According to a letter from the FDA Food and Drug Administration, human placenta cannot be considered “food”.

Here are excerpts from that letter:

“Human placenta is not a dietary ingredient under section 201 (fI!)( 1) of the Act.”

“It is not a vitamin, a mineral, an herb or botanical, or an amino acid (section 20l(ff)(l)(A-D) of the Act), nor is it a concentrate, metabolite, constituent, extract, or combination of any ingredient above (section 20 1 (fI)( l)(F) of the Act).”

“It also is not a “dietary substance for use by man to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake (section 201 (ff)( l)(E) of the Act), nor is it a concentrate, metabolite, constituent, extract, or combination of any dietary ingredient. Human placenta also is not a food under section 201(f) of the Act.”

“Given that human tissue is not “food” or a “dietary ingredient,” and that it may transmit human disease, a dietary supplement that contains it is adulterated under the Act (sections 402(a)(l), 402(f)(l)(A), and 402(a)(3) of the Act).”

“The introduction or delivery for introduction into interstate commerce of any food that is adulterated is prohibited (section 301(a) of the Act).”


There are no data available on the safety of eating placenta and there is some evidence that it may be harmful to eat the placenta and capsules. In TCM, the capsules are considered “hot” or having “yang” energy and should not be used in the presence of infection or fever. this may exclude most placentas, as placentas are often infected, especially after long labors.

The Independent Placental Encapsulation Network (IPEN) reports side effects in less than 2% of their population and include things such as mild headache, stomach pain/abdominal cramping, other gastrointestinal disturbances such as diarrhea, loose stools or constipation, Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy (PUPPS) rash, pelvic girdle pain, unexplained lack of milk supply and PMS type emotional symptoms.

Are diagnostic X-rays safe during pregnancy?

X-rays are a form of invisible radiation. Diagnostic X-rays are done to diagnose a condition while therapeutic X-rays are done to treat a certain condition, usually some kind of cancer. A chest X-ray would be a diagnostic X-ray to diagnose a condition in the chest, and a dental X-ray would be done to check your teeth.

While unnecessary radiation exposure should generally be avoided while pregnant, diagnostic X-rays to determine or diagnose a condition or disease are safe. The radiation associated with diagnostic X-rays are well below unsafe levels and there is no evidence that they will harm the fetus. In addition, most X-rays are done away from the uterus and the abdomen is usually shielded to prevent radiation from getting there.

If there is a good reason for a chest X-ray (for example), or a dental X-ray, or other tests, the amount of radiation exposure to the fetus is minimal, especially when the abdomen is shielded with lead. In fact, according to some experts, you might receive a similar amount of radiation by taking several commercial airplane flights (due to cosmic radiation from the sun and other stars). There is no evidence that modern microwave ovens or computer terminals expose women or their fetuses to harmful radiation.