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Local nonprofit shines light on Black infant mortality

Gynecology, Gynecology and obstetrics space, Rouen hospital, France. (Photo By BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A local nonprofit organization is advocating for Black mothers and the challenges they face before and after pregnancy.

Shades of Becoming a Mom works to provide support and resources for women of color who have lost an unborn child or infant.

The group, in partnership with Eskenazi Health, will host a community candlelight ceremony at 6 p.m. Saturday at New Birth Fellowship in Indianapolis. The event will “remember longed-for infants and unborn children,” according to a Facebook post by Shades of Becoming a Mom.

In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed Indiana as having the nation’s ninth-highest infant mortality rate. There were 531 infant deaths, with an average of 6.5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.

However, the risk for Black mothers in Indiana remains much more heightened than for their white and Hispanic counterparts.

According to a March 2022 report by the Indiana Department of Health, in 2020, the infant mortality rate for white babies was an average of 5.5 per 1,000 live births.

The state found that Hispanic, non-white babies had a mortality rate of 6.0 per 1,000 births, while the number of Black infants who died before their first birthday was 13.2 per 1,000 — more than double the infant mortality rate experienced by white and Hispanic populations.

Tieree Reed, the organization’s founder, says there are many reasons Black babies don’t survive.

“The racial disparities for African American women are astronomical, and the representation for African American women is nearly none. For all communities, [the] Indiana infant mortality rate is 20% higher. However, for a college-educated black woman, they are more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications but they are also more likely to lose their baby,” Reed said.

Reed described her experience trying to get support while experiencing a miscarriage.

“I did not expect that when I got to the hospital, I would be ignored. I explained that I had miscarried the baby and had an excruciating feeling that had me on my knees in tears. I sat in the emergency room for hours. Finally, I had to call my primary care physician and asked her to send somebody to care for me, and my words were, ‘I would die.’ So, I dealt with multiple levels of discrimination,” Reed said.

Mayor Joe Hogsett declared Saturday as Pregnancy, Infant, Child Loss Remembrance and Awareness Day in Indianapolis.

The Marion County Public Health Department will be at Saturday’s candlelight ceremony and will offer depression screenings.

Visit the ceremony’s Eventbrite page for more information.