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Atlantic Documentaries

Why Are So Many Women Dying From Pregnancy in D.C.?

Mar 26, 2018 | 103 videos
Video by The Atlantic

Maternity Desert, a new documentary from The Atlantic, follows Amber Pierre, a 24-year-old African-American woman living in southeast D.C. Pierre is pregnant with her second child. After two previous miscarriages, she is navigating a high-risk pregnancy that, combined with her Medicaid coverage, requires she visit a hospital every two weeks to be seen by an Ob-Gyn.

Following the 2017 closures of Providence Hospital and United Medical Center, Pierre must travel to Medstar Washington Hospital Center to receive prenatal care—a trip that can take over an hour on public transportation. Pierre says long wait times and frequent rescheduling have cost her a waitressing job.*

Pierre lives in Anacostia, the area of D.C. most affected by the closures. In these neighborhoods, the population is 93 percent black and 32 percent below the poverty line. Across the U.S., black mothers are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white mothers. In the nation’s capital, where the maternal mortality rate is already twice as high as the national average, two recent hospital closures have the potential to make this disparity much worse.

“Every black woman who makes it and has a full term baby— it's just like, ‘You made it!’” says Aza Nedhari, founder of the Washington, D.C. perinatal support organization Mamatoto Village.

*This article has been updated to clarify how the long waits have inconvenienced Pierre.

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Authors: Sophia Myszkowski, Brianna Pressey

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