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The growing crisis with Black Maternal Health

Talk of Iowa, hosted by Charity Nebbe

When it comes to maternal mortality, mothers dying due to complications related to pregnancy or birth in the United States does not compare well to other industrialized nations. The U.S. has the highest rate of maternal mortality among all the industrialized nations in the world and the rate is rising. According to the CDC, in 2020, 861 women were identified as having died of maternal causes in the United States. The maternal mortality rate for 2020 was 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births.

The maternal mortality rate for women of color in the U.S. is much higher. In 2020, the maternal mortality rate for non-Hispanic Black women was 55.3 deaths per 100,000 live births — that's 3 times the rate for white women and the disparity is worse in Iowa. Black mothers in Iowa are six times more likely to die than white mothers.

On this encore edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe and her guests explorethe reasons for that statistic and the work being done to change that reality.

In this podcast, we hear from Sofia DeMartino, an editorial fellow with The Gazette in Cedar Rapids and Community Relations and Grants Director with Horizons — A Family Service Alliance, and a Black mother of three. DeMartino shares how she nearly died — twice as a result of childbirth. Later in the conversation, we hear from Jazzmine Brooks, a certified Doula and Lactation Specialist. Then, we hear from Stephanie Van Roekel, a HealthyStart Nurse Consultant with EveryStep in Des Moines, a non-profit healthcare and human services organization, and LaTashia DeLoach, president of the board for Sankofa Outreach Connect.

This episode was originally produced in April 2022.


  • Sofia DeMartino, editorial fellow, The Gazette, community relations and grants director with Horizons — A Family Service Alliance
  • La Tashia DeLoach, president of the board for Sankofa Outreach Connect
  • Stephanie Van Roekel, HealthyStart nurse consultant
  • Jazzmine Brooks, certified doula and lactation specialist
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Matthew was a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa