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Black Maternal Health: What You Must Know Before Giving Birth

Black Maternal Health: What You Must Know Before Giving Birth

The urgent crisis of Black maternal health in America demands immediate attention. 

Shockingly, Black women in the U.S. are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes compared to their white counterparts. 

Despite this distressing reality persisting for years, recent events continue to underscore the lack of progress in addressing this issue.

Just a few weeks ago, Krystal Anderson, a former Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader, tragically passed away from sepsis-related organ failure shortly after giving birth to her stillborn daughter, Charlotte Willow.

The Black Maternal Health Crisis in America

Similarly, in 2018, tennis champion Serena Williams bravely shared her experience of developing blood clots after a C-section, revealing how her symptoms were ignored by medical professionals until she insisted on further examination. 

These harrowing stories serve as stark reminders that Black women are still grappling with a maternal health crisis that shows no signs of improvement.

Annually in the United States, Black women are losing their lives during or after childbirth. Even more concerning, over 80% of these deaths are preventable, as per the CDC. 

The underlying causes of America’s Black maternal health crisis are rooted in unconscious racial bias within the medical field and a lack of adequate resources in Black communities.

Anderson and Williams’s narratives vividly illustrate that the risks faced by Black women persist regardless of their socioeconomic status, education, or fame.

Not surprisingly, data indicates that Black patients, including Black mothers, experience better outcomes when cared for by Black doctors. 

However, with only about 5% of physicians in the U.S. being Black, access to such care is limited. For Black women who are pregnant or planning to conceive but lack access to Black practitioners, it’s crucial to be equipped with the right information to advocate for themselves. 

We spoke with two experts in the field—Dr. Constants Adams, an obstetrician-gynaecologist based in Chicago, and Dr. Kimberly Middleton, a board-certified family medicine physician and vein surgeon in Garland, Texas—who shared invaluable insights for Black mothers preparing for childbirth.

Plan Ahead: Initiating discussions with healthcare providers before pregnancy is paramount. Identifying and addressing preexisting risk factors early on can optimize overall health and mitigate potential complications during pregnancy.

 Dr. Adams emphasizes the importance of proactive preconception care, including researching hospitals, C-section rates, and selecting a healthcare provider aligned with one’s birth plan.

Build Your Birthing Team: Establishing trust and rapport with a medical team that supports your needs is essential for a safe and positive birthing experience.

Dr. Middleton advises prospective mothers to assess their doctor’s communication style, seek referrals, and research their physician’s track record and patient reviews to ensure compatibility and quality care.

Stay Active: Maintaining physical activity during pregnancy is crucial for promoting healthy blood flow and reducing the risk of complications such as blood clots. 

Dr. Middleton encourages pregnant women to engage in moderate exercise and remain vigilant about changes in their bodies, as even seemingly normal symptoms could indicate underlying issues.

Know Your History: Understanding one’s family medical history, especially regarding birthing complications, provides valuable insights for healthcare providers to anticipate and address potential risks effectively. 

Dr. Middleton emphasizes the significance of knowing familial medical backgrounds to enhance personalized care and improve pregnancy outcomes.

In addressing the Black maternal health crisis, proactive healthcare planning, access to culturally competent providers, and increased awareness of personal health histories are vital steps towards ensuring the well-being and safety of Black mothers and their babies.



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