U.S. Olympian Tori Bowie’s cause of death is a frightening reminder of the maternal dangers many Black women face.

Tuesday, an autopsy report showed Bowie died due to childbirth complications. Her autopsy cited respiratory distress as well as eclampsia as likely complications that arose during her birth. Bowie is said to have died on her bed, with nobody hearing from her for days. It was during a wellness house call conducted by the police that she was found dead.

According to Healthline diagnosis information, medically reviewed by Doctor Mia Armstrong, “Preeclampsia is when you have new onset high blood pressure and at least one associated symptom, such as protein in your urine, during pregnancy or after delivery. You may also have low levels of platelets, which are blood cells that help your blood clot, or indicators of kidney or liver trouble.”

The report states that Preeclampsia typically starts after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with some cases occurring earlier or even after delivery. 

Eclampsia on the other hand, is a severe and highly developed stage of preeclampsia. This condition is characterized by high blood pressure that results in seizures and could possibly lead to a coma, preterm birth, and maternal and infant death.

What Causes Eclmpsia?

Although medical experts are still figuring out the primary cause of preeclampsia, some preliminary causes have been identified.

These causes include Genetics, autoimmune disorders, blood vessel complications, first pregnancy, obesity, family history of preeclampsia, past preeclampsia diagnosis, past medical history of high blood pressure, lupus, or kidney diseases, and other risk factors. 

The Data for Black Women

According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, preeclampsia rates are 60% higher amongst Black women than it is amongst White counterparts. The Foundation states that Black women are also often more likely to develop the severe leg of preeclampsia. In a presentation at the 2020 American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions, it was stated that Black women born in the U.S. have a higher risk of developing preeclampsia than those who, for example, immigrated into the country. This conclusion was drawn from nearly 4,000 Black women born in and outside of the U.S. 

“Researchers analyzed the role of their birthplace to their risk of preeclampsia and whether the length of time in the U.S. also affected the risk among the women who were not born in the country. The analysis included women from a subset of the Boston Birth Cohort – reviewing data on urban, low-income Black women in Boston. Race and ethnicity were self-reported. Of the study group, 1,652 were born in the U.S. and 2,302 were born in the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa or other regions,” the report stated. 

Preventative Measures

There is currently no cure for preeclampsia but medical experts suggest a number of preventive measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of getting diagnosed with preeclampsia.

Some of these recommended measures include losing weight for women with a history of obesity. Medical experts also propose controlling blood sugar and blood pressure and establishing and maintaining a regular exercise routine. It’s recommended that women also get enough sleep and avoiding caffeine as well as avoid eating too much salt while making sure to eat a healthy, balanced diet.