In the wealthiest nation in the world, Black women are dying in childbirth at rates of those in poorer colonized nations. At alarming numbers, Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy related causes in comparison to white women, which has caused the overall rate of pregnancy related deaths to increase over the past two decades, but why is this happening?
The perception of Black women being incompetent care takers and having unruly bodies, overrules the most misleading stereotype about us… the thought of Black women being superhuman. Withholding the title of “superhuman”, doctors tend to ignore our pain, and dismiss our concerns relating to our body and overall health, making black women feel rather uncomfortable expressing their concerns to doctors who are neglective. Even two of the world’s most powerful Black Women (Serena Williams and Beyonce Knowles) are amongst the many who have had near death experiences during childbirth, due to doctors turning a blind eye towards their medical history and current health complications.
Black expectant and new mothers have frequently expressed that doctors and nurses devalue and neglect their pain. Some have even stated that, doctors believe we can’t feel pain at all because of our race. Thirty three percent of Black women believed they have been discriminated by a doctor or health clinic because of their race, and twenty-one percent avoid seeking medical health care out of concern that they would be discriminated against. npr.org
The neglection of our needs, relates back to American history, when these health disparities were largely blamed on Black people’s susceptibility to illness, but in reality, that wasn’t the case. The hospitals in which black women give birth are often the products of historical segregation, lower in quality than those where white mothers deliver, and have higher rates of life-threatening complications. These problems have been embedded in the medical systems for years, affecting the quality of care in multiple ways. Both societal and health system factors play a role in increased rates of poor health outcomes and maternal mortality for Black women.
Racism, sexism, and systematic barriers are only a few roadblocks black women face when trying to receive the proper health care that they need. In comparison to white women, Black women face greater financial issues and are less likely to access prenatal care. Pregnant women who lack insurance coverage often delay prenatal care due to socioeconomic disadvantages.
The death of Black women during childbirth in America is preventable… yes, I said PREVENTABLE…..
So why aren’t doctors doing more to prevent these increased mortality rates? In order to improve Black women’s maternal health, we have to improve the quality of care, provide financial support, and remove racism within the health care systems. Bringing a life into this world, should not cause the death of another. Black women deserve to have healthy and safe child births, and in order to ensure this outcome, we need systemic change that begins within the healthcare system, only when we commit to being fair and more responsive to Black women’s needs, will we be able to achieve optimal health for ALL.