Shalon Irving. Kira Johnson. Dr. Chaniece Wallace.
Black Maternal Health.
Let’s talk about it.
***Now this is my disclaimer that I am no way a professional on this topic. However I have done a bit of research for my Social Work classes and want to rant a little about it with you.
If you haven’t heard, it is Black Maternal Health Week (or the end of it). And if you have never heard of that, you are not to blame. I’ll break it down for you.
***Second disclaimer, this IS a racial issue…so…yeah…
Black mothers are dying at an extremely alarming rate. So much so that other countries are literally asking US (**pronounced “United States**) “What in the ENTIRE F*CK are yall doing to mothers in that country?”
My sentiments exactly.
Let’s spit some facts from our friends over at March of Dimes:
- Black women are nearly three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes compared to White women.
- The rate of infant mortality (death) among Black babies is almost two times higher than the national average (5.4 per 1,000 live births). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of infant mortality (death) among Black babies in the U.S. is 10.6 per 1,000 live births.
- Preterm birth rates are 50 percent higher among Black women, than they are among White or Hispanic women.
Yea, it’s real out here…for mothers AND babies. Before I started my research, I always heard people say make sure you get a second opinion…get a black doctor, they’ll be more than likely to listen to you…and, I mean, I understood why. Black people have had a GRAND mistrust of the medical profession since the beginning of time. Fertile Black women being used as slavery chattel, the numerous experiments conducted on us WITHOUT our consent or knowledge, and basically discriminating against us soooo much so that you–as a MEDICAL professional–refuse to understand our bodies to help us.
And they want to stand on the ground that THIS is not about racism.
**Sighs in Blackness**
You know what I also didn’t know was a thing? Maternity Care Deserts.
If you’ve heard of Food Deserts–you know…the fact that you will NEVER see a Publix or Whole Foods in the hood–it’s pretty much the same concept. There are not enough doctors, clinics, midwives, hospitals, etc. in low income places and America is just like “Yea, that doesn’t sound too bad of a problem…let’s focus on stripping the Transgender community of any and all rights because drag shows”.
**Sucks teeth in Caribbean**
I’ve been thoroughly engulfed in this topic and decided to see what the government is actually doing about it.
Join me and laugh because we all know they are doing absolutely NOTHING.
There was/is a bill on the floor–Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2020–that basically said “Hey, so healthy Black mothers are dying during and after delivery at alarming rate and we want yall to help us stop that.”
While I’m not too sure what’s going on with this bill now–yall are smart enough to research and let me know–the Maternal Deaths Act of 2018 did something to address maternal mortality and morbidity…
…also note “BLACK” has been removed from this…and I believe you’re smart enough to know why…
This bill was used to help save and sustain maternal health during all stages–pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. In short, this bill was just used to gather information.
Please note some facts that were previously shared and the massive amount of information that is already out there concerning this topic.
This is not new.
My thought was don’t we have enough information? Isn’t it evident that Black mothers are dying? The government really needs data from THEIR people to tell THEM that Black women are dying…while Black women are STILL dying…
**Rolls eyes in Black woman**
When I tell you how sick I am of America’s antics…
Anyway, this bill will have families of the deceased included in the documentation of the mother’s pregnancy journey (i.e. medical history, complaints that were ignored, etc.), information from medical examiners (i.e. stages in which death occurred– during pregnancy, one year after pregnancy ends, etc.), and demographics (i.e. socioeconomic background, age, etc.). When I read that, I thought about how this is information that should already be collected, no? I know for me, any time I go to the doctor I am asked the same questions every…single…time. You mean to tell me this isn’t something already on record for these women. Is this information missing or something??
It actually is…in some states…
In 2003, a “pregnant” checkbox was added to death certificates, but wasn’t adopted by all states or even checked for most mothers. Just more misrepresentations of what is happening and the full picture not being told.
But are we really surprised?
And let me not continue to blame our very trash of a government and medical system…because they are not completely to blame…
…and I say that through clenched teeth…
We, as Black women, have to let go of the notion that we are “fine”. We are not SuperWoman. So go ahead, neatly fold that cape, and store it. We also have to let go of the notion that we are a bother when we don’t feel like ourselves and need to seek help. I knew wholeheartedly that I was experiencing postpartum depression after Ky and chose to lock myself in my room and cry for several months instead.
THAT IS NOT HEALTHY.
Choosing to stay busy to distract ourselves from dealing with whatever, is not healthy. Masking all of what we’re going through is not healthy. And it’s costing us our lives…SOMETIMES…
I would be wrong not to acknowledge those who actively advocated for better care for themselves and still lost their lives because they were ignored due to racism. And let us not forget that many resources are not available to us to properly heal without the one thing that’s obviously important to this country…Money. The comparison of America’s maternity leave to other countries is right on brand to how they have steadily portrayed themselves…E M B A R R A S S I N G. Most of us cannot afford the luxury of having doulas, staying home a few extra weeks to a year, or postpartum care and ultimately rush back to provide for our families and ignore any signs of distress within us.
So what can we do about this?
Be YOUR own advocate and create a village that will advocate for you as well!
I came across these doctors (@dr.evab and @nicolealiciamd) on Instagram that gave these 5 tips on what that can look like.
- Speak up & ask as many questions as possible: It is your body and you have the right to understand what is going on with it. It is not a bother for you to ask questions if you do not understand. Your provider’s job is to help you.
- Build a relationship with your provider: There is a reason why we need more Black providers. If no one else is going to understand the trauma we’ve faced as a community without making us think we’re crazy, at the very least our Black providers should. And if you don’t feel like they’re “the one”, go shopping girl! Find a provider you feel comfortable with.
- Don’t be afraid to get second opinions: Don’t believe what you’re being told or think there is something your provider is withholding from you, RED FLAG! Get another opinion!
- Educate yourself on your options: Google is free, but it’s also dangerous. Refer back to Tip #1 if needed. Providers should always have some type of resource on hand to supply you with or point you into the direction of the information you need.
- Plan for labor, delivery and postpartum support: This goes for the whole team: the baby’s father, grandparents, your brother, your homegirl, your work bestie, post it on the front door. Let the village know the plan in case you are not able to effectively advocate for your care for whatever reason.
Spreading awareness on this issue will never be enough to me, but it’s a start. Hopefully, after all the unnecessary, necessary research collected, our government will wake the hell up and do something about.
…Or we can all move somewhere overseas…
…I’m actively looking into the latter…
Happy Black Maternal Health Week, Mamas…