Increase in Black Maternal Mortality
Superstar Serena Williams, who suffered medical complications after the birth of her daughter, recently brought attention to the plight of women of color who receive compromised medical care. She said doctors did not initially listen to her complaints, but in the end, she received their attention and received the treatment she needed.
Williams' case brought a spotlight to a serious issue in women's health. Are hospitals failing Black and Brown women, primarily when it comes to maternity and postpartum care? Statistics show that the United States is one out of four countries in the world where the maternity mortality rate is increasing rather than decreasing.
These cases are primarily found in the Black and Brown communities but most are unreported to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). In the past, hospitals have treated Blacks as guinea pigs, using them for experimental purposes and totally disregarding our human rights.
Although these facts are sadly true, there is a resurgence of natural births, home births, midwives, and women taking their health into their own hands. Every year in the United States between 700 and 900 women die from pregnancy-related complications such as hemorrhaging, blood clots, and amniotic fluid in the bloodstream to name a few. In New York City, Black mothers are 12x more likely to die than White mothers. The majority of these complications happen to women who have emergency C-sections that in most cases are unnecessary. It is believed that some doctors used C-sections as the first option because of the large monetary rewards to the hospitals. Most people don't question hospitals and doctors but as we now know, the doctors don't always have the patient's best interest at heart.
The following are statistics from the 2011 American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG):
“Each day in the US, 1 to 2 women die of pregnancy complications. As many as half of all deaths from pregnancy complications could be prevented if women had better access to health care, received better quality care, and improved their health and lifestyle habits.”
“Black women in the US have a substantially higher risk of maternal death than do White women. In 2007, the maternal mortality rate for Black women was 26.5 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared with 8.9 for Hispanic women and 10.5 for White women.”
In the past, Black women were used as guinea pigs and test subjects for doctors and people becoming doctors. Dr. Simms, the “father of Obstetrics” is known to have operated on dozens of women including girls, with no regard for their humanity, all to perfect his craft. Even further back, Black women were bred and forced to birth children for chattel slavery and made to ask permission to marry and start a family of their own.
An old myth that hospitals still believe today is that Black women have a high threshold for pain and they over exaggerate their agony, which leads to many of their fatalities. Take Serena Williams, for example, she is a world-renowned tennis champion, multi-millionaire who studies medicine. Recently Serena gave birth at one of the more prestigious hospitals in California and after undergoing an emergency C-section, she began feeling a shortness of breath.
Due to Serena's pasts with blood clots she had an inkling that something was wrong. She immediately informed a nurse who then told her that she was probably just amplifying her pain. After several demands for a CT scan and heparin drip, the doctors complied and found a number of small clots forming on her lungs.
I cannot imagine what kind of carelessness happens in cases where women are poor, uneducated or just going through this alone. Although these injustices are occurring every minute of every day, the future is beginning to look bright. Some would say that we, as Melinated people, are going back to the past for a new beginning. There is an abundance of natural birth, homebirths, water births, and even lotus births. Women are opting out of packing their hospital bags for that big day and staying in and preparing for their babies to be born in the comfort of their homes.
Doulas and midwives are coming out of the shadows of the indoctrinated medical student and stepping into their role as the humble servants of birth. Childbirth does not have to be treated as a surgical procedure; mother and babies shouldn't be treated as easily discarded objects. Mothers matter; Birth matters.
Rest In Peace: Erica Garner (at the age of 27 transitioned four months after giving birth) And to all the mothers and babies whose names, we will never know.
Rayna Catherina Weddington Mother of Terrayn, Mom-trepneuer, writer, advisor, and more. “I am here to live and thrive, not just survive”