In a world where racial disparities and effects bubble with charged emotion and concern, black mothers in the U.S. are overwhelmingly more likely to die from childbirth than a white mother is and it’s time we all take a look at how to change that.
As a natural-minded mama and advocate of doula and midwife care for mothers during their pregnancies, I recently read an article about black mothers turning more to midwives when they were pregnant so they felt more cared for.
In my head, I cheered, thinking, “Good! More women cared for in pregnancy and childbirth is always a good thing.”
But as I kept reading, and knowing what I already know about maternal mortality rates for black mothers, my heart sank.
They are turning to midwives more not just to feel more cared for, but for a better chance that they and their baby will survive the pregnancy and delivery because their statistics when delivering in hospitals is grim.
Black Mothers Matter
We spoke with Jamie Webber, who is the Editor of Healthline Parenthood. She shared how hard it is to look at the statistics for maternal mortality for black women vs. white women and not be angry about the tremendous gap in support for expectant mothers. Webber said that expecting a baby is already full of unknowns, but a mother having to fear death because statistics are not on her side is simply unacceptable.
This week, Healthline Parenthood will release An In-Depth Look at Why Black Moms Need to Matter More, which will take a look at the hard truth about daily disparity in healthcare for black mothers, as well as share ways that black mothers can deal with inequalities and how conversation between all mothers can help bring this maternal sisterhood back together.
What Is Going On In Healthcare For Black Mothers?
We’ve written about it again and again. The American Bar Association affirms it when they share that, “Black people simply are not receiving the same quality of healthcare that their white counterparts receive.” And in situations where black mothers are giving birth? That inequality truly is the difference between life and death for so many.
The Harvard T.H. Chan Public School of Health reports black mothers’ in the U.S. odds of surviving childbirth are comparable to those of women in countries like Mexico and Uzbekistan–with significant portions of the population living in poverty.
America is a FIRST WORLD COUNTRY. The statistics are atrocious.
Yael Offer is a St. Barnabas Hospital nurse and midwife. In a 2018 interview, she said in some areas, like New York City, “Black mothers are [currently] 12 times more likely to die than white mothers.”
Twelve times more likely?
It’s no secret that disparity in adequate healthcare exists for black women well before she even conceives. And science has yet been able to prove any genetic reasoning that 12 black women may lose their life for every white woman who does in childbirth.
So it must be said: Black maternal health is unequivocally connected to the healthcare resources of the black population in general and must be addressed to demolish that skin gap.
But how? How can black mothers do this and white mothers help?
As the original article I cited shows–they can start by ensuring they have a provider that cares. This is why so many black mothers are looking for midwives, and this is why midwifery and doula care is so important. Jamie said that in doing the research for their article, they came across that same sentiment in respected providers. They interviewed Dr. Staci Tanouye, who is an alumna of the Mayo Clinic.
Dr. Tanouye said, “The best thing [Black mothers] can do is find a provider they are comfortable with.” She adds, “In an ideal world this is someone that they have already built a relationship and trust with over previous years. But we all know this is not usually possible or realistic.”
Still, finding midwives and doulas with whom they can turn to is a good start.
Additionally, we can do our part to eradicate any ridiculous thoughts or beliefs that somehow black people have less of a pain threshold than white people do, and therefore can ‘take it’ better. Jamie said a study from The Journal of Medical Humanities details the infamous origin of the notion that Black people have less of a pain threshold than white people. Yes, read that again. Some people really believe that.
According to Jamie, researcher Joanna Bourke reported, “Slaves, ‘savages,’ and dark-skinned people generally were depicted as possessing a limited capacity to truly feel, a biological ‘fact’ that conveniently diminished any culpability amongst their so-called superiors for any acts of abuse inflicted on them.” This slave master notion became a post-slavery notion, and this post-slavery notion has remained implicit, generation after generation.
We cannot continue to allow these erroneous beliefs paint the way black mothers (or black people in general) receive health care.
Additionally, we need to stand up for our sister-mothers and take interest in their issues. We’re all mothers, all looking to do the best we can for our children and to have safe, consistent healthcare for us and our babies. It’s not enough anymore to just read an article, think, “That’s sad,” and move on.
Get involved, even with just educating yourself and looking for simple ways you can support black mothers as well. Be sure to look for An In-Depth Look at Why Black Moms Need to Matter More, when it releases on Wednesday, and let’s work together to not only bring awareness but to end disparity once and for all.
Image: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock