Black maternal health is not a new issue in the United States. The maternal mortality rate in the US is the highest of all developed countries, and Black women have the highest mortality rate in the US. Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than White women.
Several factors contribute to these disparities, such as underlying chronic conditions, access to quality healthcare, systemic racism, and implicit bias. Social determinants of health prevent many people from racial and ethnic minority groups from having fair opportunities for economic, physical, and emotional health.
I had five miscarriages within two years. My doctor told me, “this is common among Black women, just try again.” In the moment, I questioned my health. I was sure that something was wrong with me. After all, I knew several black women that experienced miscarriages. The fifth miscarriage nearly killed me. I remember being carried to the car by my husband and brother. When I made it to the hospital, I had to have an emergency procedure. It was intense. After that, my husband and I decided not to try again. We thought perhaps we needed to adopt.
A friend suggested I see her doctor; she specialized in high-risk pregnancy. Feeling hopeful, I agreed. I walked into her office a few months later, and my life changed. During our consultation, I shared the number of miscarriages and how I was concerned about my ability to give birth. She listened intently, and once I was finished, she walked over to her phone and called my previous doctor.
I was so shocked; I had no idea what was happening. After introducing herself and listening to him share my medical history, she asked, “did you do an autopsy on the fetus to determine why she kept losing the babies?” Suddenly her demeanor changed as she said, “why not? Why didn’t you perform an autopsy to determine the cause?” I thought, “you mean he could have prevented me from losing five babies and having 5 DNC’s?” Wow!! I am now just as disturbed as my doctor.
From higher maternal mortality rates to increased risks of severe conditions that can affect their health during and after pregnancy, we, Black women and mothers, continue to face entirely preventable health disparities. That’s why we must continue to fight to advance maternal health, rights, and justice for communities of color, specifically for Black women. You can join The M.O.M.S. movement in a city near you.