It wasn’t until looking into what I should expect during pregnancy and delivery that I realized I could be in danger, just because of the color of my skin.
As an expecting mother I had many, many questions. If you ask my husband, I did way too much research — if that’s even a thing!
Naturally I scoped out every app and website for answers to my questions. And while they were helpful at first, they didn’t quite answer what being a Black mother would be like or what I could expect during pregnancy and labor as a Black mom.
I knew that certain medications and interventions work differently for different people, so I kept digging. But the more I researched, the worse the information became.
As a Black woman expecting a baby I wasn’t aware of the Black maternal mortality rates until I was already pregnant with my first son.
I quickly learned that Black women are dying far too often during pregnancy and childbirth, even in these modern times: Black women are
Reasons for the increased rate of complications and sadly, death, are wide-ranging. Fixing this problem will require major systemic change and addressing the deep-rooted racism in our country.
But we don’t have to feel powerless. With my first pregnancy, although I knew the statistics, I didn’t know what to do about them. When I discovered I was pregnant with my second child, I took my own health by the horns. I was more aware of the risks and made sure to do things differently the second time around.
While it feels like we’re up against a lot, this list is a great reminder that you can (and should) be your own advocate in any medical situation. These are the six things I wish I knew earlier about advocating for my health as a Black mom.
The best way to advocate for yourself is to simply get comfortable with speaking up. The doctors’ office is not the time to be quiet, sit back, and listen. The doctor cannot know your concerns, hesitations, or questions if you are not talking to them about what’s on your mind.
At times, we can feel intimidated because we assume the doctor is the expert in the room, but you are the expert of your body. And beneath the coat, doctors are people who bring their own biases — conscious or not — into the room with them.
Trust your instincts and share what you need from your doctor at any moment.
While the pregnancy pictures, baby shower, and naming list are the exciting parts of pregnancy, your relationship with your doctor or midwife is the most important preparation.
I had a few things in common with my OB-GYN, and we had a few acquaintances in common, so our bond developed naturally. Once I became pregnant, our relationship was already formed, so it was natural for me to trust her.
Neither of my deliveries went “as planned,” but thankfully my doctor knew ahead of time what was most important to me. I felt completely comfortable with her, and because she was a Black woman and mother, she knew exactly how I felt about each possible outcome during delivery.
On the flip side, if I didn’t feel comfortable with my OB-GYN I would have found another provider who was a better fit — and that is perfectly normal and acceptable.
Although I had a great relationship with my doctor I shouldn’t have felt that I couldn’t talk to other doctors about any concerns or situations that came up. A second opinion is more commonplace today, says Anees Chagpar, MD, MBA, MPH, in this Yale Medicine blog post.
Whether you want more eyes on your medical condition, access to research and specialization of a particular practice, or simply to feel more comfortable with a diagnosis or treatment plan, you have the right to discuss your plan with another doctor.
I know the phrase “there are no silly questions” gets overused, but there isn’t a more fitting situation for this statement. Asking as many questions as possible often leads to discovering more you may not have initially thought about.
Regardless if it’s your first, second, or fifth time being pregnant, you may run into new experiences or may have forgotten what to expect. You don’t want to accidentally do something you shouldn’t, or take medication that won’t be safe because you felt uncomfortable asking too many questions at your appointment.
Read up on the Black pregnancy and childbirth experience — and ask how it pertains to you.
Thanks to a variety of organizations whose mission it is to improve outcomes in Black maternal health, you have the opportunity to
Doulas and birth workers are often the perfect extra voice in the room. They are trained to ask the questions you may not think of, speak up when they notice something amiss, and step in to advocate for you if your medical professional is not listening to or responding to your concern.
There are times when, even if you advocate for yourself as much as possible, you end up in a situation when you cannot see your usual doctor. A doula or midwife who is along for the entire journey can keep continuity and consistency with your birth plans.
Your pregnancy is an exciting part of life, but there are real concerns to consider. Be prepared by taking whatever steps you need to take in order to have the best prenatal care possible.
Rachel Pierre was raised in Northern Virginia and is an alumna of Elon University (BA) and the University of Houston (MPA). Her professional experience combines a mixture of public service and communications for the federal government. She’s the founder of Mommifaceted, a lifestyle brand that addresses the unique challenges facing Black moms. She incorporates live broadcasts, events, and community, developing content that allows Black women to feel seen, understood, and valued as they navigate all phases of motherhood. Find her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter at @Mommifaceted or visit www.mommifaceted.com.