Let’s talk about discrepancies between white women and black women in healthcare. I want to preface this post by stating that I identity as a white woman and I am in no way writing this to put down other women and make them seem any less important. I also know that as a white woman I may not know everything, so I encourage people to discuss in the comments below if I miss anything. Through this post I would like to bring awareness to the difference in respect and treatment that black women face when they go to seek medical care. I also hope that this allows everyone to recognize the disparities that occur in system every single day.
In the US black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die because of pregnancy related complications. Many of the complications that occur are preventable and it has been found that black women are more likely to die during childbirth or during pregnancy than any other group of women, spanning all different races. These are statistics that are not easy to fix overnight but bringing awareness to the situation that is occurring in the healthcare system is a good first step.
Many studies completed have found that black women are more likely to have fibroids that occur in the uterus and can cause postpartum hemorrhaging. This can create huge complications and if not treated properly and quickly, can lead to death. Since there are so many economic disparities between black and white women (black women often make on average $5,500 less each year than white women) a large number of black women are forced to go to hospitals that may have less funding and advancements in technology. When women come in to give birth and something goes wrong, this is when fatal pregnancy complications may occur. These complications are more often than not preventable, but without proper funding/training can lead to mortality.
You may think it stops there, but a sad truth about the United States is that a large majority of pregnancy complications occurring to black women are linked to deep rooted racism. Many pregnant black women are “undervalued”, so they aren’t monitored as closely as white women are when they come in for regular pregnancy checkups, childbirth, and postpartum checkups. Even looking at celebrities, Serena Williams experienced a pulmonary embolism back in 2017 after giving birth and physicians dismissed her concerns about the issue. She had to go back to doctors and get a CT scan that proved her concerns to be real. I have to wonder if providers ignored her pleas because of the color of her skin and what the outcome would have been like if someone like Kate Hudson had gone to her provider with a postpartum issue. If health disparities are even happening to black female celebrities, it makes me curious how many black women are turned away because of their health concerns.
For a majority of my life I thought I would end up working in healthcare. It wasn’t until college that I realized my dream may not become a reality. I quickly found that I didn’t have to become a nurse or doctor in order to make a difference in healthcare. When I discovered that black women had a much higher mortality rate during pregnancy than white women, I wanted to find ways that I could create change in the system. My new dream is to one day work in a women’s health sector of a hospital as a communication coordinator and advocate for black women during pregnancy. My hope is that writing posts such as this I can help shine a light on an issue that doesn’t get talked about nearly enough.