CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Every year, 50,000 women in the United States almost die due to pregnancy-related complications.
Every year, 800 mothers do not survive. According to the CDC Foundation, maternal mortality is dropping dramatically around the globe. The one exception is the U.S. where the rate is actually rising. And it's getting worse, especially for black women.
Black women are three to four times more likely to die during or after childbirth than white women, but many of these deaths are preventable.
That's why the state of North Carolina created a program helping women with the highest risk factors. Now other states are taking notice and creating similar programs.
The joy of raising Jalia was a gift Jessica Carter questioned if she'd ever get, especially when she thinks about the daughter she lost.
"There was a lot of shame and regret behind losing her. Questioning if it was your body, did you speak up enough, what did you miss?" Carter said.
She was 20 weeks pregnant, and her blood pressure was sky high. It's something Carter said her doctor caught weeks earlier then did nothing about. By the time she went to the ER, she was told it was her life or the life of her unborn baby.
"If I would have taken my original doctor's advice, I would have sat and waited and waited and died," said Carter.
Her story is becoming more common. Pregnancy-related complications are skyrocketing in this country.
"I felt like I was dizzy."
"This was a heart attack."
"I didn't know what was going on, but I was scared for my kids."
According to the CDC, the United States is the most dangerous place in the developed world to give birth.
In Dr. Angela Morrison's Rock Hill office, she said, too many times, women put their own health last.
"We cook, we clean, we take care of the babies, we manage things and that's what mothers do, that's what women do. And a lot of times we get so busy doing those things that we don't take care of ourselves," said Dr. Morrison.
For black women, the mortality rate is even more perilous than their white counterparts. The gap is a chasm in South Carolina. For every 14 white women who die, there are 57 black women who pass away. That's four times more.
Even when socioeconomic status, access to care, age, health, and other factors are controlled, black women still die more often. The CDC claimed there could only be one cause: Racism.
"We've dealt with people treating us a certain way or not acknowledging our concerns. We've dealt with that, and I think we accept it. and maybe we shouldn't," Dr. Morrison said.
However, in North Carolina, something positive is happening. There's still a gap, but it's closing. For every 12 white women who die, there are 30 black women who pass away. In some recent years, the disparity was almost non-existent.
North Carolina credited a program called Pregnancy Medical Home that identifies pregnant women with the highest risk factors and gives them access to care early and often. The program is now having so much success, other states are looking to model it.
Back in Dr. Morrison's office, she's vowing to ask more questions about contractions, bleeding, leakage of fluid -- and spend more time.
"You just have to have an open ear," said Dr. Morrison.
An open ear listening for clues, watching for warning signs, hoping to prevent a complication -- before it takes a life.