LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors officially proclaimed Black Maternal Health week for the first time this year.

While Black Maternal Health week has been established since 2017, LA County is now making an annual commitment to spotlight the urgent need to keep moms safe.

What You Need To Know

  • Mortality rates for Black moms in LA County are four times higher compared to white moms

  • Black babies are three times more like to die before reaching their first birthday

  • Mothers like Jessica Wade are sharing their birth stories this week in an effort to help other moms

  • State Sen. Nancy Skinner has introduced Senate Bill 65, also known as the Momnibus Act

In LA County, mortality rates for Black moms are four times higher compared to white moms, and Black babies are three times more like to die before reaching their first birthday.

Mothers like Jessica Wade shared her birth stories in an effort to help other moms. During her pregnancy with twins, Wade felt chronic cramping and reached out for help.

“I went to urgent care seven times, between six weeks and 21 weeks pregnant," said Wade. "Every time they told me I was not crazy but told me go home, put your feet up, everything’s OK."

Each of the seven times, Wade went to a different urgent care facility but was always told the same thing. Sadly, Wade miscarried one of the babies. At 21 weeks, she had to stay in the hospital on bedrest to keep the other baby alive. On her 58th day in the hospital, she told doctors and nurses that she felt she was in labor.

"I was telling them, you know, I know I’ve been here for a while, but this is a different type of pain," Wade said. "Something else was going on. They didn’t want to check me because they didn’t want to cause active labor. I knew something was going on. My mom had to drive from West Covina to Lancaster to make somebody check me because my husband was on the train trying to get back up there. They finally checked me, and I was 10 centimeters dilated, so I literally almost gave birth in the hallway to my son."

Wade and her husband welcomed Marlon Jr. He stayed in the NICU 143 days before he was discharged to go home. While she was relieved Marlon was alive, Wade also had to mourn the baby she lost. She could not help but think how things could have been different if she had received help sooner.

Research shows implicit bias is a big part of the challenges Black moms and infants face.

“We’ve been able to finally acknowledge and identify that racism is one of the major leading causes, the impact of racism on the body of Black women and their infants, and the lack of services or the unheard and unmet needs of Black women and their infants,” said Adjoa Jones of LA County Department of Health Services' Whole Person Care LA and the South LA/South Bay AAIMM Community Action Team.

Wade is now a mother to a healthy 7-year-old Marlon, who now has a 5-year-old brother. In her spare time, Wade has started an organization call Mightly Little Giants to help other families in the Antelope Valley with kids in the NICU. She is also a doula to high-risk moms and gives them all one piece of advice.

“Listen to your body. Listen to your first mind. Your body is always right, no matter what.”

Friday April 16 has also been proclaimed at Day of the Black Infant in LA County.

State Sen. Nancy Skinner has introduced Senate Bill 65, also known as the Momnibus Act. The legislation would implement several strategies to reduce pregnancy and postpartum death rates and infant mortality especially for families of color.