NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia moms are dying at an alarming rate and Black women are dying far more frequently then White women.

A study in JAMA says while the mortality rate remains unacceptably high among all races and ethnic groups, Black women are particularly at risk.

It’s a problem doctors at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk are addressing.

“I think it’s incredibly complex,” said Dr. Lindsay Robbins, director of the EVMS Center for Maternal and Child Health Equity and Advocacy. “I think it starts well before pregnancy.”

The top two causes of death in Black women are both cardiac-related.

“When you look at the number one cause of death for Black women, the number one cause is cardiac and coronary conditions,” Robbins said, “and the number two is cardio myopathy.”

The center is working to address issues like this, both before and during pregnancy.

The ultimate goal is to eliminate maternal deaths in Hampton Roads. In the meantime, Robbins said, “our goal is to just make it an even playing field.”

To do that, they are partnering with several organizations.

The American Heart Association is donating blood pressure cuffs so women can monitor their numbers from home. EVMS and Sentara are also partnering on a cardio obstetrics program.

“So we can work as a team with the cardiologists to improve the care during pregnancy and then smooth that care out postpartum so that they’re not lost,” Robbins said.

Mental health is also something many women are battling.

The Brock Institute at EVMS has a grant to improve care for patients with substance abuse disorders while they’re pregnant.

The center is also collecting data as they search for answers as to why so many women are dying.

“This is a really complex problem that is going to require really complex solutions it’s not going to be fixed overnight,” Robbins said.

As doctors continue to seek solutions Robbins said women must advocate for themselves.

Make sure your fears and concerns are heard by your healthcare providers. It could be what saves your life.