Today begins the first day of Black Maternal Health Week #BMHW18, a week created to bring the issues that Black parents face during pregnancy, birth, and parenthood in significantly greater numbers to the forefront of our attention.
BMHW was founded and is led by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA), a Black women-led cross-sectoral alliance that centers Black mamas to advocate, drive research, build power, and shift culture for Black maternal health, rights, and justice. Their vision is a world where Black mamas have the rights, respect, and resources to thrive before, during, and after pregnancy.
The inaugural national BMHW is a week of awareness, activism, and community building intended to:
- Increase attention to the state of Black maternal health in the US, the root causes of poor maternal health outcomes, and community-driven policy, program, and care solutions;
- Amplify the voices of Black mamas, women, families, and stakeholders on this important issue;
- Serve as a national platform for Black-women led entities and efforts on maternal health, birth justice, and reproductive justice, including African immigrant and Afro Latinx groups; and
- Enhance community organizing on Black maternal health via community conversations, events, and outreach.
As a result of our efforts, communities (especially communities of color) across the nation, will be better informed about maternal health and how they can act to improve outcomes. Additionally, public stakeholders will understand how root causes, such as systemic racism, act as drivers of maternal health disparities. Policymakers will be informed of recommended policy solutions and the general public will recognize the organizing power and thought leadership of Black people on their own health.
If you're wondering what kinds of inequalities Black parents are facing -- ie, why we need a Black Maternal Health Week -- let me share:
- Black mothers are 3-4 times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth than white mothers
- Two times as many Black babies die before their first birthday
- Peripartum cardiomyopathy is a type of maternal heart failure and it affects Black women at a younger age and they take longer to recover
- Fibroids are 3-4 times more likely to occur in Black mothers
- When Black women experience preeclampsia, it presents earlier in pregnancy than women of other races
- Breastfeeding initiation and continuation (exclusive breastfeeding for 6 and 12 months) are significantly lower for Black mothers
- Black mothers are giving birth to premature babies 50% more than white mothers
- Black women experience higher rates of chronic stress, which negatively impacts health, including pregnancy
- Black women experience disproportionate levels of maternity care in hospitals, leading to increased complications and poor outcomes
- Biases and racism are affecting how Black mothers are being treated, listened to, and cared for during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum
So what can you do to help? Be a part of the movement and take these few, simple steps:
Know the stats and spread the word. Visit Black Mamas Matter Alliance and grab an image and/or text to share out over social media. In conversations with others, let them know what's happening to Black families in our country.
Get involved. Text UNITE to 90975 to receive updates and learn more about getting involved.
Donate. Making change happen takes time, resources, and money. Contribute!
Attend a local event. Get out on the ground in your area to find out what's needed. See if your state has an event listed.
Attend a free online event. From webinars to tweet chats -- plan to show up!
Listen. Listen to Black mothers and Black families. Have conversations, but mostly listen.