Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related issues than white women. BMMA wants to change that.
by Chimere G. Holmes, LPC, Mental Health Editor
This April, Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW), founded and facilitated by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA), celebrated its five year anniversary. Thanks to BMMA, conversations surrounding this important issue are just getting started.
This initiative amplifies the many voices of Black mothers, women, and families and will continue to strengthen wellness structures and improve resources on a national scale. Various components of the awareness week make it special. But really, this topic is special every week of every year.
From collective awareness on social media platforms to activism and community building, BMMA issued a clarion call to encourage the world to engage in an intentional conversation about Black maternal health and the need for reproductive justice.
According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 700 women in the U.S. die during pregnancy or shortly thereafter. Every death is tragic, but so is the racial disparity present in that statistic. The CDC says that Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women.
Part of the solution is recognizing that structural racism, economic barriers, lack of quality health care, underlying health conditions, and practitioners disregarding urgent maternal warning signs contribute to potentially life-threatening complications. Healthcare systems and medical providers must intentionally identify unconscious bias in prenatal and postpartum care for this population.
Now is the time to reclaim health and wellness for Black births and initiate culturally specific conversations to tackle social and economic factors that impede quality healthcare. More systemic care coupled with psychoeducation and holistic treatment are paramount. There are thriving midwifery programs, birthing doulas, and new programmatic initiatives for providers and patients alike (see list of resources at the end of this article). Advancement and enrichment will transform obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive care through innovation and discovery.
Every person can do their part to prevent pregnancy-related deaths, bring greater awareness and understanding to infertility struggles, and overall maternal health outcomes. And while these are physical – sometimes anatomical or biological – issues, they carry a very large psychological component.
Safeguarding the mental health of those struggling throughout this process is essential. Increased incidents of depression and anxiety are higher among men and women suffering with these issues. Intervention with a mental health professional and interdisciplinary team should happen sooner than later. As I always say, prevention is better than the cure. I also recommend that individuals and couples struggling prioritize seeking out area family planning support groups in addition to marriage and family therapy with a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) or clinical psychologist.
Dedicated to every woman out there who has been touched or impacted by this struggle. Just because you carry it well, does not mean it isn’t heavy. I carry your story in my heart, I carry you in my heart.
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For more of Chimere’s writing about mental health, read The Mental and Physical Symptoms of Stress, Feeling “Emotional” Could Be A Sign Of Strength, How To Deal With In-Laws and listen to her podcast: Almost Doctors.