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Black Mothers Keep Dying After Giving Birth.

Shalon Irving's Story Explains Why


MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:


We're going to hear the story of a woman who died earlier this year a few weeks after giving birth. Her name was Shalon Irving. She was in her mid-30s. She was black. NPR's Renee Montagne and ProPublica's Nina Martin learned about her at the beginning of an investigation into the high rate of maternal deaths here in the U.S.


KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:


Within that alarming rate is an even more troubling one. Black women are three times more likely to die than white women. Sometimes it's an issue of poverty, lack of prenatal care or not having access to the best hospitals. Racism also plays a role. Experts say prolonged exposure to bias is so stressful; it can make the difference between life and death. Here's Renee.


RENEE MONTAGNE, BYLINE: It is an especially cruel irony that Shalon Irving was focusing on the exact issue of how racism figures into health. Armed with a Ph.D., she was rising through the ranks of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where she researched the many ways the body can be negatively impacted by its surroundings.


By any measure, Shalon had accomplished a lot - highly educated and well-paid. She owned her own home and had access to the finest health care. Yet none of that protected her from becoming part of a shockingly high rate of black maternal mortality.


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