In the past year or so, we’ve heard tragic stories of black women and their babies being hurt or even dying during childbirth due to the negligence of doctors and nurses. Not only does the United States have the highest maternal mortality rate, black women specifically are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes.
Lack of access to healthcare and pre-existing healthcare conditions are contributors to this statistic, but the main reason is that healthcare professionals are not paying as much attention to black women as they are to white women.
Charles Johnson is currently suing a Los Angeles Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for his wife Kira’s death that happened three years ago. After Kira’s C-section, Johnson noticed that his wife was bleeding into her catheter and asked for help.
Instead of helping, they told him his wife was not a priority and Kira got worse. When they finally took her back to surgery, blood had filled her abdomen and she died immediately.
These kinds of stories are causing black women to be more concerned about giving birth in a hospital or with a non-black OBGYN.
Am I the only black woman scared to have children because of the way black women are treated in hospitals??? Am I the only one ? https://t.co/bEHmTqyxwE
— Hyacinth Kenzie 🌼 (@VeryyKenzie) February 20, 2020
Instead of giving birth in a hospital and hoping that underlying prejudice will not bring them any harm, black women are ditching hospitals all together and turning towards black doulas, midwives and home births.
A doula, sometimes referred to as a birthing coach, is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical, and educational support to expecting mothers.The doula will develop a relationship with mothers a few months before the due date, answering questions, easing concerns, and creating a birth plan.
While they do not provide any healthcare, they are knowledgeable about the medical aspects of labor and delivery. After delivery they will stay to comfort and help mothers.
Midwives, unlike doulas, have medical training for labor and delivery. Most work at birthing centers or in homes but some also deliver in hospitals.
A midwife has very similar roles as doula, providing support before, during, and after childbirth. Midwives also have an OBGYN role and monitor the mother delivering the baby.
Women are typically able to form very trusting relationships with their mid-wives, allowing them to feel more comfortable and relaxed during labor.
While home births have been happening since the beginning of time, water births are becoming a more common way to give birth from the comfort of your own home. In a water birth, the mother experiences labor and delivery in a pool filled with warm water.
The water can help speed up labor and reduce the need for anesthesia. While this is still considered experimental, with a less than 5 percent chance of the baby inhaling water, it can also help prevent increased blood pressure, the chance of a C-section and can lead to a shorter labor.
It is important for black women who are expecting or plan to someday to know what their options are. Childbirth should be an extraordinary and happy event for a mother, not something she is scared of.
We have the power to change that narrative for all the black mothers of today and the future.