Ka”Cheena Lucas, 30 sit in the waiting area of her Maplewood Drs. Office on Thursday, January 3, 2024. The couple is expecting a baby boy in a few weeks. This is Ka’Cheena’s first child.

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Black Childbirth Takes Front and Center on Young Parents

Brian Branch-Price | United States

Organization: Public Square Amplified, Zum Press

In this photo essay, Branch-Price takes the viewer through the final hours of pre- and post-birth of the first child for parents Ka’Cheena Lucas and Malcolm Simms from Newark, who are surrounded by family and friends and their trusted health care providers

Public Square amblified

SUMMIT, NEW JERSEY (TFD) - The act of childbirth is always an intimate one — filled with a host of emotions, from joy to pain.

Using his black and white medium, Public Square Amplified's Brian Branch-Price had the unique opportunity to do what only great photographers can — to almost not exist in the moment yet to be at the center of it. "For them to welcome me into that space was a crazy, wonderful experience," Branch-Price recalled, "It's unusual for that to happen unless the subject has a lot of trust and confidence.”

"Childbirth seemed very natural to me, but lately, there's been a focus on issues with Black women and birthing, and the infants not doing very well," Branch-Price explained.

For Black mothers-to-be, childbirth can bring trepidation and dread, and the research validates such emotions. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 83% of all maternal deaths are preventable, yet Black women in New Jersey die at a rate that is 7 to 8 times of that of their white counterparts.

In New Jersey, the stark racial differences are borne out in alarming data: Black women in New Jersey experience a 3.5 times higher rate of infant death compared to white women, according to 2017 New Jersey State Health Assessment Data.

Research confirms that the root of the problem is the racialization of the treatment of Black women. Holding other factors constant — such as income and education — the fact of being a Black woman was the single factor leading to worse outcomes.

Lucas’s journey to motherhood was relatively smooth and without serious complications. But this is not the case for many Black women.“We need to develop some level of outrage about this issue,” said Dr. Nastassia Harris, executive director of the Perinatal Health Equity Initiative, which she founded in 2018. “We should all be upset by what is happening in our state and we should be talking about it.”

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