Patient Stories

Strong Maternity Care for Black Mom-to-Be

Originally published November 9, 2023

Last updated April 3, 2024

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Candice Cauley, a Black woman in her thirties, wraps her arms around her knees on a burnt-orange couch and smiles for the camera

Candice Cauley, considering pregnancy for the first time at age 35, was worried.

“I saw in the news that Black women are three times more likely to die from giving birth than white women,” she says. “It was scary.”

Adding to her worries, the South Los Angeles resident had previously sought care from physicians that she felt were dismissive of her concerns.

These experiences led her to USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, part of Keck Medicine of USC, which is on a mission to provide strong, culturally sensitive women’s health care.

Candice began commuting to their women’s health practice in Glendale for preconception care.

“Before [my OB/GYN] even examined me, we sat down and had a conversation,” Candice says. “Right there, that was different than any prior experience I had.”

Black women face greater childbirth risks and care discrepancies

Candice’s fears are shared by many Black women in the U.S. who are or who want to become pregnant.

According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women are three times more likely than white women to die due to pregnancy complications.

Risk factors include hypertension, diabetes and preeclampsia, a lifethreatening condition that causes high blood pressure and potential organ damage in previously healthy pregnant women.

Discrepancies in care and treatment are also to blame for disproportionately high mortality rates, according to the CDC.

When Candice first met with her OB/GYN in August 2019, she and her husband had been trying for months to get pregnant.

I saw in the news that Black women are three times more likely to die from giving birth than white women.

Candice Cauley, patient, USC Verdugo Hills Hospital

“I was thinking something was wrong, especially at my age,” Candice says. “But [my doctor] assured me that I shouldn’t start worrying yet.”

Three months later, Candice became pregnant. With the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, she began experiencing headaches.

Her doctor was there to support her.

“She told me that any time I want, if I have questions, if I’m feeling something, just tell her,” says Candice, a former high school teacher who now works as a yearbook representative.

“She was saying, ‘We’re in this together.’”

Empathetic maternity care at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital

USC-VHH has a women’s health practice comprised of mostly women of color, including the physician who treated Candice.

Together, Candice and her OB/GYN developed a birth plan, including Candice’s hopes to avoid a cesarean section.

Her doctor also encouraged her to enroll in USC-VHH’s maternity courses.

When Candice went into labor in August 2020, her baby’s heart rate began to drop any time she pushed. Suddenly, a C-section began to seem like a possibility.

Knowing Candice’s wishes, her team exhausted every other option.

“I was very thankful for that,” Candice says. “Being a Black woman and having a Black woman as my doctor, I felt that she was looking out for me.”

Ultimately, Candice gave birth to a healthy baby, her son Carter, without a C-section. She also avoided any other complications.

Candice Cauley in Downtown Los Angeles (Photos by Kremer Johnson Photography)

A second positive experience of childbirth at USC-VHH

After the positive outcome of her son’s birth, Candice knew she had found the right care. So when she got pregnant again in 2022 at age 38, there was no question where she would go.

Candice and her husband welcomed their second child, Charli, at USC-VHH in January 2023.

Once again, the same team was there.

The couple got to know all four OB/GYNs in USC-VHH’s practice throughout both pregnancies. The staff makes this effort for all moms-to-be so they will never feel like they’re working with a stranger in case of emergency.

Candice continues to enjoy life with her husband and kids, taking Carter for bike rides and attempting to get a full night’s sleep when baby Charli allows.

Despite her busy schedule, she will always make time to see her team at USC-VHH.

“Knowing I’m getting good care, I don’t mind taking a drive,” she says.

Connect With Our Team

The caring team at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital’s Beginnings Family Birth Center provides warm, expert maternity services. From pregnancy to childbirth to postpartum, our goal is to help you have the experience that’s right for you.
Learn More


Michael Juliani
Michael Juliani is the managing editor for USC Health.

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USC Health Magazine 2024 Issue #1

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