It's no longer being kept quiet -- the risk of Black mothers dying during pregnancy, birth, or postpartum is four times higher than it is for white mothers. In the last six months, news articles keep popping up to share the statistics and the reality of maternity care and outcomes for Black families in the United States. This month, as we recognize Black History Month, we are calling out the unacceptable gap in care in our country, as well as its cause. As my Lamaze colleague and fellow blogger, Sharon Muza points out:
"The majority of these deaths are preventable with proper care and attention during the prenatal and postpartum period. The simple fact is, that Black families have higher morbidity and mortality during the childbearing year. Racism is to blame and until that is accepted as fact, it is unlikely to change."
If this is new information, I implore you to learn more. Whether this affects you directly or not, you have a role to play. To get started, take a look at these two informative and eye-opening articles from NPR:
- How Hospitals are Failing Black Mothers
- Black Women Disproportionately Suffer Complications of Pregnancy and Childbirth. Let's Talk About It.
If you are a Black mother or father, it's vital for you to not only know about the inherent risks and challenges you face, but what you can do to improve your chances of better health and outcomes. Maternity care for Black families has so much work to do, but if you're pregnant, you don't have time to wait -- your health needs attention and improvement right now!
Shafia Monroe is a Portland, OR, based midwife, doula trainer, motivational speaker and a cultural competency trainer who recently blogged about the issue of Black parents dying in a post titled "Ending Black U.S. Maternal Mortality." She sums up much of her post by saying that maternal mortality rates for Black families can be solved by listening to Black mothers and responding to their requests. Monroe says, "Black women are not predisposed to maternal mortality. Neglect is the problem." Additionally, she offers a helpful list of things Black pregnant women can do. The following list is excerpted from her post:
- Register with a Certified Nurse Midwife for a hospital birth
- Register with a Midwife or a Certified Professional Midwife for a homebirth
- Consider birthing at a birth center
- Learn the causes of Black infant and maternal mortality
- Practice traditional southern Black postpartum care
- Honor the six-weeks postpartum period, rest, sleep, stay home, ask for help, reduce all stress
- Get your blood pressure read regularly
- Keep records of your blood pressure readings
- Demand medical treatment for all concerns
- Talk with the hospital patient advocate to represent your needs
- Reduce Cesarean sections and advocate for VBAC’s
- Have a doula for your pregnancy, labor, and postpartum care
- Create a high-risk team with an OB specialist, a midwife, and a doula for comprehensive and culturally competent care
- Learn the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia
- Get and stay healthy
To learn more about advocating for improved care, visit Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA) and look through their extensive toolkit for advocacy. Black families deserve equal access to better outcomes and care. The current state of Black maternal death in the United States is unacceptable. Every person is in a position of responsibility to improve this situation. Won't you join us this month -- and from here on out -- to work to improve and sustain life for Black mothers and babies?