ST. LOUIS, Mo (KMOV.com) -- In the United States, 700 women die each year due to pregnancy or delivery complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Local doctors call the number alarming and concerning. Doctor Jade James, an OB-GYN and the director of women’s health at CareSTL Health, said the numbers for black women are drastically higher.

Black women are three-to-four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, according to the CDC. It's partly why the overall rate of pregnancy-related deaths has climbed over the past two decades.

The CDC finds the reasons behind the racial disparities to be complex, but lists lack of access and poor quality of care as some of the leading factors.

“This is not a new conversation, it’s a growing conversation,” said Dr. James.

James said some are frightened about healthcare and admits some may distrust their healthcare providers.

“[It is important] for patients to have physicians that look like them, because they understand the cultural perspectives,” said Dr. James. They understand when you try to get them to change their diet, what's available in their neighborhoods.”

Brittany Kellman is the state's first black certified professional midwife and the owner of Jamaa Birth Village in Ferguson. She tells News 4 she is also fighting the CDC numbers.  

“It was really a calling to be honest and it wasn't a choice,” said Kellman.  “I had two births as a teenager that were very traumatic that should not have been. I wasn't given a chance, I wasn't empowered, I wasn't informed properly by the healthcare people that I should have been able to trust.”

Kellman said there are just over 200 black midwives in the country. 

The CDC is working to better understand the risk factors in these deaths.

James said it is critically important to make sure women adopt healthy lifestyles and address health problems before getting pregnant. A healthy pregnancy begins before conception, doctors say.

Copyright 2019 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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