My baby is almost two years old (insert tears, mamas). Will I ever get over this? I’ve heard the answer is no. And as she gets closer to her second birthday, my husband and I have started the inevitable conversations about adding a second child to our family. We’ve talked about all the ways a second child will potentially change and shift the dynamics of our current life :: finances, time, schools … the list goes on. There is one topic that we haven’t really discussed though, but it’s looming at the forefront of my mind whenever I think about the idea of becoming pregnant again. It is the dismal outcomes of Black women and maternal health in the United States of America.
Out of all the things about a second child, being pregnant again is what terrifies me most. I had a very healthy and uneventful first pregnancy. I gained plenty of weight, but beyond that, my pregnancy was a dream – I even managed to go to Orangetheory Fitness 36 out of 38 weeks, worked the famous Moms Night Out all day before going into labor that night, and was back doing HIIT workouts at five weeks postpartum. But even with all of that information, I am always thinking about the potential of me dying during labor or postpartum and leaving my husband with a toddler and a newborn all alone. This may sound morbid, but as a Black woman, this is a very, very real concern.
You see, Black women are nearly four times more likely to die due to pregnancy or delivery-related complications compared to their white counterparts, regardless of socioeconomic status, education, etc – think Serena Williams and Beyoncé who have both recently revealed intimate details about their very dangerous pregnancy and delivery experiences. These are some of the most famous and powerful women in the United States with unlimited resources at their disposal, and they weren’t immune. If it can happen to them, what about the rest of us? And, I personally know women this has happened to – I will never forget hearing about a colleague I went to college with who died unexpectedly within a month of giving birth.
With my first baby, my OB/GYN was an African American woman who happened to also be pregnant. She understood my very real concerns from a personal and professional standpoint. Unfortunately, she has since left the area so when the time comes, I will need to find a new OB/GYN who is just as knowledgeable. Multiple articles regarding maternal health outcomes in the US have popped up, and it is clear this is a concern to black women living in cities everywhere. This only reaffirms my already present fears about the importance of finding the right OB/GYN to entrust with my health.
It is so important for people working in all aspects of healthcare to be educated on what is happening in order to improve these outcomes.
The United States, as a whole, does not have very good statistics regarding maternal health and outcomes when compared to other advanced nations around the world, and those numbers become even more astonishing when looking specifically at Black women. As other advanced nations have continued to decrease their maternal mortality rates over the last twenty years, the United States’ rates have steadily increased. Of course pregnancy can be risky, but it should not be feared as a potential death sentence, and for many black women, that is what it has become. One of the ways to change that is to educate and inform everyone – we can’t change our behavior for the future if we don’t know what is happening around us. So, I ask that you share this information with a friend or family member who may be a nurse, physician, or some other intricate part of a maternal health care team.