There was a moment in my labor and delivery room about to give birth to my third baby where I distinctly remember wondering if I might die.
I know, I know, this sounds dramatic. But I was feeling faint. Like I was about to pass out. The nurses has just given me oxygen, and they had be laying on my side to try to bring my baby’s heartbeat back up. That coupled with the fact that a couple of months before I had read a New York Times article about the maternal mortality rate for Black women in the US is is 3 to 4 times higher than that of white women. These statics are across the board by the way, regardless of income and education levels.
So there I was scared, on the bed wondering if I or my baby was about to become a part of this horrendous statistic.
Luckily for me, for us. We were fine. I delivered her quickly, recovered ok, and in a few months from now she will reach her first birthday.
So we are one of the lucky ones. Black women in the US are more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth than any other racial group.
Why? There are so many factors that go into this. And I’ve been diving in and doing a lot of research on my own. Some say it’s access to quality medical care, the fact that black-serving hospitals provide lower-quality medical care (and 75% of black women give birth in those hospitals). High-risk pregnancies, and stress are other factors I’m reading about. The TIMEs article I read linked statistics to racial bias, and stress from a lifetime of discrimination.
I’m not going to speculate on why I think these statistics are the way they are. Instead I want to figure out what we need to do to fix this. One of the first steps is shedding light on the issue. I saw an Instagram post sharing the statistic and the shocking responses it garnered. “I had no idea!” I’m seeing over and over.
Well now you do.
It’s Black Maternal Health Week… I mean, I’m right here sharing this at the tail end. But this isn’t a conversation that starts one week and ends the next. This needs to be an ongoing discussion.
For a developed country we already have too high of mortality rates with childbirth. And beyond that, we need to pledge to examine why Black women are three to four times more likely to experience a pregnancy related death than white women. And speak up when we notice inequalities. Push lawmakers to address policies. We can educate our pregnant friends about this statistic so they can arm themselves with information to advocate for themselves.
I found this website Black Mamas Matter Alliance to be a helpful place to start diving in. If you really want some nitty gritty raw stories from women firsthand, check out the stories in the highlights of @sgarnerstyle on IG.
I’ll come back and update this post as I find more helpful information and ways we can support more women.