Muscogee Nation Works to Address Maternal Mortality Rates: 'We Are Trying To Teach Women To Listen To Their Bodies'

April Ronquillo with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation joins News On 6 to talk about maternal mortality rates among Native American women and women of color, early warning signs, and the resources available.

Tuesday, June 4th 2024, 12:35 pm

By: News On 6

The US has one of the highest maternal mortality rates among developed nations, and it's even worse for women of color or who are Native American. April Ronquillo with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Department of Health joins News On 6 to talk about the issue.

Bracey: So, let's first start off with what maternal mortality encompasses. It doesn't just affect women when they first have a baby, but even months later, possibly.

Ronquillo: Yes, absolutely. That's what the CDC 'Hear Her' campaign we're partnered with is trying to get that message out, that there's a fourth trimester that a lot of women haven't heard about. It is that 12 months after you have a baby, these risk factors, these maternal warning signs, can affect women and affect their health.

Bracey: How do you know these warning signs mean 'I need to go see a doctor; something's not right.' Of course, I'm sure if you've had a baby, you're going to have feelings of discomfort, but how do you know you need help?

Ronquillo: So, we are trying to teach women to listen to their bodies. They know their bodies better than anybody, and sometimes, those urgent maternal warning signs can be very, very small. So things like shortness of breath or a headache. A headache is completely normal for us to have on occasion, but if you're taking your pain medicine and nothing is helping it or you have vision changes as well, then it's time to call your doctor and let them know, 'Hey, this isn't normal for me.'

Bracey: You're here today representing the Muskogee (Creek) Nation; women of color have higher rates of maternal mortality. Why do you think that is, and what's being done to hopefully bring those numbers down?

Ronquillo: The CDC 'Hear Her' campaign is definitely helping to get the word out on those warning signs, but social determinants of health are something that people have been hearing more about, and we're realizing that it's all those social factors that also affect a mother's health. So if there's not enough food to eat, if we're worried about paying our rent, if there's violence, all kinds of different factors can affect our health. We're not just one being; there's a whole lot to our health, and the campaign is helping to get those words out as well.

Bracey: And Muscogee Creek Nation, do you guys offer particular resources for the Native American community?

Ronquillo: We do, absolutely. So anybody within our boundaries, women we're reaching out to, we have the mother-baby program, which is what I manage. We do in-home care and visits with moms' education, bringing these messages, but always there's our website that you can refer to,, for all the resources that are available to our moms in the community.

Bracey: How would you say things have evolved over time? Have things been improving? Would you say when it comes to maternal mortality?

Ronquillo: So we saw maternal mortality get worse in the United States, specifically amongst our colored community, our Native American community. Now, the numbers are starting to get better. Slowly but surely, I think, in part because of the education that's going out.

Bracey: Beyond the particular resources the Muscogee Nation can offer, what are some other resources women at home that women at home may be watching? What can they take advantage of?

Ronquillo: Reach out to your provider for those urgent maternal warning signs. The CDC has a website, the 'Hear Her' campaign, look up that information online. That's all a great resource for women to speak up to their providers and educate providers. So listen to women about their maternal needs, about their body, and what's happening with their body.


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