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What Other Young People Should Know About Black Maternal Health

As a rising college sophomore, there is much happening in the world that folks my age may feel just doesn't fall into our sphere of impact. Well, I'm here to bring those like me back down to earth with a bit of important news! If you didn’t know, Black women are facing a disheartening amount of disparities in life that other women don’t have to deal with. Shall we count the ways? No. We shouldn't. So to save time, we’re just going to focus on the complications regarding pregnancy and postpartum!


It is no secret that when it comes to health, Black women are at the bottom of the “food chain”. But why is that? For now, let’s just focus on what these disparities are. Did you know that Black women are three times more likely to experience pregnancy related death than Caucasian women? That’s insane! Think about the times you’ve heard a woman say that parts of her placenta were left inside of her or times you’ve heard of a newly postpartum woman developing an infection that wasn’t treated in time. These are just a few examples that show how some pregnancy related deaths could be avoided. One of the ways we can work towards avoiding these tragic circumstances is to improve the quality of care provided in hospitals that are in areas that are considered to be “impoverished.” These hospitals consistently run low on health care providers and  as well as the medical supplies that will help these patients. Another way is to pay close attention to the mother during pregnancy and the postpartum period. One thing Chicago Birthworks Collective has taught me is that awareness goes a long way. The collective stresses just how important it is that while the mother is in the moments of labor, we (the doulas) are her extra eyes and ears. Considering this, I vow to ensure that my clients/patients are comprehensively cared for physically and emotionally.


One additional disparity Black mothers must face is our need continuously being unmet as it relates to comprehensive healthcare. Black women often lack access to postpartum care and counseling that leads to a distant feelings between the mother and the baby amongst many other emotional struggles. The Postpartum period is a trending topic that most people do not want to discuss, critically. But not to fear Chicago! Chicago Birthworks Collective is formed by doulas who are committed to addressing this.


Psychological and emotional counseling is an essential part of the pregnancy process. It helps women discuss the changes their bodies are going through be they emotional or physical. The lack of access to this type of care takes this essential part away from them. Also, have you heard the stereotype “Black people don’t talk about their problems?” Perhaps this stereotype stems from the thought that discussing your problems with a counselor means you are complaining or makes you seem weak. Black women are supposed to be the “strong black woman” and counseling doesn’t usually fit in this image. We can change this! Women should know they deserve the right to discuss these issues they face during pregnancy and postpartum. I plan to do this work by creating a safe and comfortable space so that moms can be vulnerable without feeling judgement, and encourage other young folks to do the same!


The needs Black women have don’t end with counseling but also extend to the health care providers they are working with. Many hospitals are overwhelmingly White. As you might imagine, this often creates a cultural barrier that only allows the provider to help the patient up until a certain point. Did you know it’s a proven fact that Black women receive lower quality of care than White women? Quality of care not only means serving the patient in a physical manner but seeing the patient as an individual as well. Black women must deal with discrimination on top of trying to navigate through pregnancy and postpartum process. Hospitals have certain policies that addresses this issue, but they are not monitored or enforced as they should be to see great change. We must continue to demand providers who are truly culturally competent, respectful and true experts in their field. Not to worry, we can also help the providers who are not these things by educating them.

 

So again, I ask, “Why do these disparities exist?” Are these honest mistakes, oversights of the healthcare system? We do not know; however, we do know these disparities exist and we are included in this very important conversation of how to make change!

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