The Truth About Black Women’s Maternal Health

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On my 35th birthday, I thought to myself, “Adrianne, you are now a geriatric patient if you become pregnant.” What a thought to have as you celebrate life, right? Well, it’s something that I toil with daily. My husband and I are proud parents to one little girl, and we go back and forth about having another.

My husband is more worried about finances and disrupting our seemingly perfect schedule. I, on the other hand, am now considered an older mother.

I was diagnosed with high blood pressure after having my daughter, and Black mothers are two to six times more likely to die from pregnancy related complications than our White counterparts. I’m scared to say the least. When I discovered we were expecting, the first thing I did was speak with my insurance agent about my life insurance policy. I needed to make sure that if I didn’t come home, my family would be taken care of. Instead of basking in the joy of my pregnancy, I was, unfortunately, planning for the worse.  

There is a traumatic history of Black women being abused by medical doctors and used as guinea pigs for “medical science” that has plagued our community for centuries. The “Father of Modern Gynecology,” Dr. James Marion Sims, was a 19th-century physician known for creating pioneering tools and surgical techniques at the expense of Black slaves.  It is said that he performed procedures on slaves with no anesthesia as the thought of the time was that slaves did not feel pain.

Regrettably, there are modern-day doctors that still do not believe Black mothers when they complain of pain. Many times they are dismissed, which ends in the scathing stats that say I am three times more likely than my white peers to leave the hospital with the funeral home rather than my family. 

pregnant-birth-woman-guide-2020Some ways that Black mothers are rebelling against the system is opting for home births with midwives and/or doulas by their side. In these situations, mothers feel like their voices are heard and their primary care physicians are their advocates. For those that may not be comfortable birthing at home, intentionally finding a Black, female obstetrician/gynecologist is another way to find safety in our care. 

Black mothers, I am urging you to find peace with your medical care, to be completely comfortable with who you choose. Find doctors that look like you and ask the hard questions. If you do not feel peace with their answers, find another doctor. It’s imperative that we take control of our health and wellness. It literally is a matter of life and death.

2 COMMENTS

  1. When you make up lies about women of color, YOU are part of the problem. No, 28% of pregnant black women in the US don’t die in childbirth. That is such an obvious and blatant lie!!

  2. Patricia, it was brought to my attention that I missed an important word in that sentence which is “higher”. I have a 28% higher chance of dying in childbirth due to my race. I apologize for the mishap, but the context of the article is to convey that this is a very real issue. One that I grabble with as an African-American mother and one that many Black mamas grapple with. I just wanted to bring awareness to the issue. I appreciate you bringing the stat to my attention. It was a mistake.

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