GREENSBORO, N.C. — American mothers are dying because of childbirth.  It's getting worse in the United States while it gets better in other countries.  The numbers are alarming, even more so for black women.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports American black women are three to four times more at risk.

Dr. Walda Pinn is an Attending Physician at Central Carolina OBGYN and an expert in maternal mortality.  She explains what and why this is happening to black mothers.

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"More African-American mothers are dying during and after childbirth, for just misses, whether it be having a stroke from a hypertensive crisis and things like that," said Pinn.

Why is this happening?

"It’s hard to just isolate it to one cause. I think it’s a plethora of different causes that need to be addressed in our country. Some of it is on the onus of the patient but also on the responsibility of us as practitioners.  Not as to isolate out a woman based on her race but to understand that she is in a higher risk category based on her ethnicity alone. And I think that we’re not actually doing that," said Pinn.

Pinn says African-American women have an innate risk just by ethnicity alone.

"You’re at an increased risk for preterm labor, increased risk for hypertension in pregnancy, increased risk for small for gestational age fetuses, and an increased for gestational diabetes just by race alone," said Pinn.

What's the solution?

"I believe that we should have an open conversation with our patients and acknowledge the fact that just because of them being African-American or Hispanic females that as minority patients they are at an increased risk. We also have to assuage them to trust doctors," said Pinn.  

"Many times we find that our population does not necessarily trust doctors so we have to earn that trust again."

It's also important for patients to come in for early prenatal care.

"We know that a lot of patients are not coming in early enough or if they’ve had a baby before and they take it for granted that they’ve done this already. They believe that they don’t need to have prenatal care so we want to dismiss those falsehoods and make sure they’re coming in for their prenatal care," said Pinn.

Can this happen to healthy moms?

"Unfortunately that is the case even when we saw from the news about what happened to Judge Hatchets daughter-in-law, unfortunately, that is the case. Here we have a young healthy African-American female and the ball was dropped somewhere postpartum so we as practitioners need to not be lackadaisical especially for our women of color especially during the pre-and postpartum."

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What can mothers do?

While the numbers are shocking, there are things any mom can do to help stay safe from pregnancy through the first year after delivery.

"I always tell my patients that if you feel uncomfortable to get a second opinion. I want to woman to feel empowered with their own health care that they can go get a second opinion and a third opinion especially if it’s a grave diagnosis. As far as pregnancy is concerned the sooner the better to come in and get prenatal care and get your testing and get your ultrasound done and write down all your questions.  Have a journal."

Get more tips prevention tips of pregnancy-related deaths on the CDC's website.

YOU CAN HELP: The following checklist will help new moms have important conversations to help stay safe during childbirth. Download the form and pass it along.