How Risky Is It To Give Birth As A Black Woman In America?

Dubbed a public health crisis, black women dying from childbirth at alarming rates.

According to the CDC black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related issue compared to our white counterparts. Even in developed countries like the United States, the disparities in healthcare when it comes to people of color are alarming. Deemed a public health crisis, maternal death rates continue to increase while other developed countries are lowering their rates.

Although I have not experienced childbirth myself, I recall my mother’s last pregnancy and the health-related issues she faced, specifically pre-eclampsia. According to OB.GYN. News, the rate of preeclampsia and eclampsia for black women is 61% higher than it is for white women and 50% higher than for women overall. Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to other vital organs, the liver, and kidneys. Her condition led to her having an early C-section before it could cause permanent damage or worse for her and the baby. Luckily my mother who works in the medical field and no stranger to pregnancy got the proper medical attention she needed.

The recent release of a personal essay from mother of three, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, reveals her complications with her last pregnancy. Bedridden for more than a month due to toxemia or pre-eclampsia, the singer had to also have an emergency C-section for her and her baby’s health.

“Some of your organs are shifted temporarily, and in rare cases, removed temporarily during delivery. I am not sure everyone understands that. I needed time to heal, to recover,” she said. “During my recovery, I gave myself self-love and self-care, and I embraced being curvier. I accepted what my body wanted to be” says Knowles-Carter in her essay.

After reading the essay myself and scrolling through various timelines, both men and women were almost taken aback by Beyoncé’s transparency. The even bigger shock was just how dangerous, and life-threatening childbirth could be. But she is undoubtedly not alone. Serena Williams also shared her own experiences with childbirth. After giving birth to her daughter, Olympia, Williams developed blood clots in her lungs. With a history of blood clots, Williams stopped taking her blood thinners to help the healing process after a C-section. In an article she wrote for CNN in February “What followed just 24 hours after giving birth were six days of uncertainty,” says Williams.

Suffering from a pulmonary embolism, or blood clots in the lung, severe coughing ensued leading to Williams rupturing her C-section wound.

“I returned to surgery, where the doctors found a large hematoma, a swelling of clotted blood, in my abdomen. And then I returned to the operating room for a procedure that prevents clots from traveling to my lungs. When I finally made it home to my family, I had to spend the first six weeks of motherhood in bed,” wrote Williams.

The accounts from both Beyoncé and Serena Williams shows mothers and mothers to be that no matter how famous or the amount of money you have, real-life issues don’t discriminate. In William’s case, having to beg her medical team to check for clots, women are often ignored or dismissed when trying to receive the help they deserve. In regards to the apparent disparities, Dr. Elizabeth Howell, an obstetrician-gynecologist and professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai told CNN, “We have what we call bundles that we’re doing within hospitals right now to try to target those conditions, to standardize care, to make sure that people get the appropriate care, and there’s less variation.” She continues, “So that’s something that’s important that we stress and make sure that our patients are aware of, that hospitals are now implementing these.”

Bringing another life into the world is a joyous and truly monumental occasion that every mother deserves to revel in, in good health. America’s history with health and minorities has been nothing short of abysmal. From the Tuskegee syphilis experiments to the ‘father of modern gynecology’ Dr. James Marion Sims conducting research on slaves without anesthesia or medical ethics in the name of medicine.

Black women, children, and men deserve better healthcare than what we have, ask Nicole Black whose daughter died after being denied an ambulance ride by medics who assumed she couldn’t afford it.

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