Olympic track and field star Allyson Felix believes that the recent unexpected death of her teammate, Tori Bowie, should be a "wake-up call" around Black maternal mortality rates.
“The medical community must do its part,” Felix wrote in an essay for Time. “There are so many stories of women dying who haven’t been heard. Doctors really need to hear the pain of Black women.”
Bowie was found dead in her Florida home on May 2. An autopsy later revealed that the athlete died while she was around 8 months pregnant with a “well developed fetus," according to the Medical Examiner’s Office, who said she was “undergoing labor" when she died.
The maternal mortality rate for Black women in 2021 was 2.6 times the rate of White women, with 69.9 deaths for every 100,000 live births, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Felix also opened up about her experience underoging an emergency C-section in 2018 when she was 32-weeks pregnant. She was soon after diagnosed with preeclampsia, a blood-pressure condition that causes seizures in pregnant people, which was also cited in Bowie's autopsy.
“I was unsure if I was going to make it,” Felix continued. "If I was ever going to hold my precious daughter. ... When I became pregnant, my doctor didn’t sit me down and tell me, ‘These are things that you should look for in your pregnancy, because you are at a greater risk to experience these complications.’”
While Felix said having another child is something she "knows for sure" she wants, she has a "very real concern" about something happening to her while giving birth.
“Will I be here to raise that child? That’s a very real concern. And that’s a terrifying thing," she said. "This is America, in 2023, and Black women are dying while giving birth. It’s absurd.”
Felix added: “I hate that it takes Tori’s situation to put this back on the map and to get people to pay attention to it. But oftentimes, we need that wake-up call.”
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