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♥ Black Birth Matters ♥

“According to the CDC, black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women’s health.” ¹

We Need Change

I am calling on my followers to learn more about the abysmal treatment of black women and transfolks in pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, and what you can do to help.

“There is much evidence to document the impact that generations of imperialism, colonialism, racism and white supremacy has had on African people in general—and on Black women in particular… Black mothers, children and families… are unseen and unheard in a health system driven by the remnants and realities of institutionalized racism.” ²

According to the most recent CDC data, more than half of maternal deaths occur in the postpartum period, and one-third happen seven or more days after delivery. The majority of initial postpartum appointments don’t happen until four-to-six weeks after birth. These are also frequently the only postpartum appointments that occur. Anyone that has had a c-section, pre-eclampsia, depression, or is taking anticoagulants needs to be seen sooner than four weeks after birth. Black women and transfolk are far more likely to experience all of these things, sometimes more than twice as likely as white women. In one study published in 2017, two-thirds of low-income black women never made it to their doctor visit.

The high risk of death surrounding black birth spans all income and education levels. It happened to Shalon Irving. It almost happened to Serena Williams. Their education and money did not change the way that their providers brushed off their concerns and ignored them. This shows that the problem does not stem from race, but from racism.



All of this was even before COVID-19 came along and highlighted the disparities even more.

 

What Can You Do?

  • If you are a black mother or a care provider, read this guide for how to acknowledge and address racism in prenatal and postnatal care.
  • If you are a care provider, pay attention to your unconscious biases that may arise when serving black women and transfolks. Work hard to be mindful and overcome them. Talk about them with others in your field, to help them give voice to their own unconscious biases, which is the first step to removing them.
  • Support the NAABB in their mission to “combat the effects of structural racism within maternal and infant health to advance black birth outcomes.”
  • Check out the resources offered by and support Black Women Birthing Justice.
  • Speak up and speak out. Raising awareness of black maternal mortality rates helps inspire policy changes, targeted funding, additional training for providers, and other solutions. Vote for candidates that support these solutions. Talk about these issues with your friends.
  • Share the IRTH app with your black birthing friends and acquaintances, so that they know about this resource for reading and sharing reviews of black care providers. This helps black birthing people make informed decisions when choosing their care providers.
  • Have a look at the anti-racist reading list and other black maternal health resources offered by Every Mother Counts, an organization working for equality in maternal health care around the world.
  • Support National Advocates for Pregnant Women, an organization working protect constitutional and human rights for women of all races, but primarily focused on black and low-income pregnant and parenting women. They provide legal defense and advocacy services.
  • If you are black and have a passion for helping pregnant women and babies, consider becoming an OB/GYN, midwife, pediatrician or other medical specialist, or doula. Currently, only 4% of doctors are POC. According to a review in 2019, the mortality rate is cut in half when black babies are cared for after their birth by doctors of the same race.

Remember to Share Positivity

It’s easy to share the scary articles and statistics surrounding black birthing women and transfolks. But sharing and celebrating the positive stories is just as important. There are lots of beautiful, peaceful, relaxed, and/or powerful black births that happen every day, and they deserve to be recognized, too. Black birthing people need to see the happy stories and know that they can have those kind of stories themselves. The media likes to share things to scare everyone into believing there is no happiness or joy in the world anymore. Even Google brings up only horror stories and dismal statistics when searching “black birth”. That means it’s up to us to prove them wrong.

 

  • You can tune into the podcast Birthright for inspirational black birth stories.
  • The podcast NATAL Stories also provides positive black birth stories alongside empowering ones that tell of overcoming the issues that black women face.
  • Homecoming Podcast is a podcast focused on black home birth, working to dispel the myths that hospital birth is safer than homebirth and that black people don’t birth at home.

 

sources:

1. https://www.npr.org/2017/12/07/568948782/black-mothers-keep-dying-after-giving-birth-shalon-irvings-story-explains-why
2. https://thenaabb.org/advocacy/

3. http://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378(17)30368-X/fulltext

4. https://theeverymom.com/black-mothers-are-dying-at-an-alarming-rate-how-to-be-an-ally/
5. https://www.nytimes.com/article/black-mothers-birth.html
6. https://thenaabb.org/
7. https://www.blackwomenbirthingjustice.com/
8. https://irthapp.com/
9. https://everymothercounts.org/anti-racist-reading/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw5auGBhDEARIsAFyNm9F3mczdvIMSeK4uWb5pb03WdxsoQfICIvx9Z5HLJPb0vLxEw2qtvpYaAuhTEALw_wcB
10. https://www.nationaladvocatesforpregnantwomen.org/
11. https://1410c6d1-d135-4b4a-a0cf-5e7e63a95a5c.filesusr.com/ugd/c11158_150b03cf5fbb484bbdf1a7e0aabc54fb.pdf
12. https://birthrightpodcast.com/
13. https://www.natalstories.com/
14. https://www.instagram.com/homecomingpodcast/

 

♥ Preeclampsia in Pregnancy ♥

 

 

Today is preeclampsia day. This is something that is very important to know about during pregnancy and the postpartum period. 

 

What is Preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia.org summarizes it like this: “Preeclampsia is persistent high blood pressure that develops during pregnancy or the postpartum period and is often associated with high levels of protein in the urine OR the new development of decreased blood platelets, trouble with the kidneys or liver, fluid in the lungs, or signs of brain trouble such as seizures and/or visual disturbances.”

This is a very basic description of it, but there is a lot more to know about it, and you can learn more from their website. Here are some key things that I think everyone should be aware of about preeclampsia in pregnancy:

Preeclampsia can be life-threatening during pregnancy, and for baby as well. Medical professionals no longer require the detection of protein in the urine to diagnose it, as research has shown that organ trouble can occur without the development of protein in the urine. Symptoms to watch out for include headaches, abdominal pain, shortness of breath or burning behind the sternum, nausea and vomiting, confusion, heightened state of anxiety, and/or visual disturbances such as oversensitivity to light, blurred vision, seeing flashing spots or auras, or swelling in the limbs, face, or genitals.

 

How Common is Preeclampsia?

I don’t mean to alarm you. Chances are, it won’t even happen to you. Preeclampsia and related hypertensive disorders of pregnancy impact 5-10% of all pregnancies. Let’s flip that to a more positive way of thinking. That’s a 90-95% chance you won’t have preeclampsia in pregnancy. So your odds are good, but with so many pregnancies per year, that’s still a lot of people affected by it!

But remember, most people with preeclampsia in pregnancy will deliver healthy babies and fully recover.

 

What Causes Preeclampsia in Pregnancy?

The abovementioned website has a great chart with a listing of basic summaries of theories of what causes preeclampsia, though no one knows for certain what actually causes it. This is fairly common in conditions of pregnancy, due to a lack of research and subsequent lack of full understanding of how having the DNA of two different people inside of one body really affects the body. Preeclampsia.org’s chart covers things like nutrition, genetics, injury, and random malfunctions of the human body. One theory that was not well-specified in that chart is the partner’s contribution. Partners who have contributed to one pre-eclamptic pregnancy are twice as likely to contribute to another pregnancy with a different person. It is also more likely to happen with limited sperm exposure from the same partner prior to conception. The reason for these statistics is currently unknown.

 

How is Preeclampsia Treated?

There are various treatments for the condition, ranging from medications to supplements to diets. Intravenous magnesium sulfate can be used to help lower blood pressure and decrease the likelihood of seizures. A high-protein diet is another commonly used treatment, which has shown great results.

 

What’s My Story?

Most people don’t even realize that it can occur in the postpartum period. It is less common, but definitely still happens. In fact, it happened to me!

I developed preeclampsia a few days after I went home from the hospital when I had a C-section with my oldest daughter. I had many of the classic symptoms mentioned above. I had actually experienced many of those symptoms during my pregnancy as well, and was suspected to be developing preeclampsia several weeks before birth. My blood pressure went back down below the threshhold of what my doctor considered “too dangerous”, however, and they didn’t look into it any further.

When I called my doctor’s office and informed them of my concerns, asking to move up my appointment scheduled two weeks out, my doctor declined to bring me in any sooner. He brushed off my concerns and treated me as though I knew nothing about my own body (just as he had tried to do when I came to the hospital, telling him that something was wrong with my baby, leading to my emergency c-section).

Luckily for me, he broke his arm while on the vacation he didn’t tell me about (presumably the reason he didn’t want me in the office any sooner), and the office brought in his son in to cover for him. His son had more up-to-date training and knowledge, and had worked all over the world. He told me to come into the office immediately when I called again, voicing my concerns which had then turned to fear. He examined me, reviewed my symptoms, and did some bloodwork. He determined that I had indeed developed preeclampsia, however it seemed to be resolving on its own at this point, which is a rare but happy occurrence. I told him that I had discovered the Brewer diet, and been trying to follow it, while also taking extra magnesium supplements. He told me that this was spot-on and commended me for doing my own research, while also apologizing for his father’s failure to listen to me. He told me to keep listening to my instincts and hinted that I may want to find another doctor once his father returned and he set back off on his international adventures.

I was lucky, not only because I had been empowered to listen to my instincts by my own previous life experiences, and I had the education and resources to do my own research, but because I got to meet a doctor that so thoroughly embodied the essence of what a doctor should be, and what a good doctor is.

 

Lastly…

I wish everyone could be as lucky as I was, but unfortunately, many are not. This is why I am here. This is why I do what I do. By sharing my knowledge and my stories, I can help to empower and educate others who may otherwise never find their power or learn the things they need to know. If you would like to gain more education and empowerment, please follow my page, and join the growing Baby Led Enlightenment Support Village on facebook. We are a community dedicated to supporting and empowering each other to make informed decisions so that we can have happy, healthy pregnancies, and raise happy, healthy, emotionally intelligent children. I hope to see you there!

 

 

Join the Baby Led Enlightenment Support Village

 

Sources:

Preeclampsia.org, Sanford Health, Dr Brewer Pregnancy Diet

♥ My Pelvic Organ Prolapse Journey ♥

 

Warning: This post contains very personal and not-pretty details regarding my anatomy, sex life, and bodily functions. If you don’t like TMI, you may not want to read it. Then again, you may not even be here to begin with in that case! 

“OH! NOW I see the problem!” — not words you want to hear your doctor say when they’re digging around in your lady bits.

But I did. And after 5 years of being told nothing was wrong, it was simultaneously terrifying and incredibly validating.

I gave birth in 2015, to an amazing baby girl. The birth was incredible. It was also incredibly physically traumatic, thanks to a deformity in my tailbone caused by a childhood injury I didn’t even remember. I only pushed for one hour when giving birth to her, but the first half of that was spent pushing against my tailbone until it finally broke to allow her through. All that straining caused some serious issues. I ended up diagnosed with stage 3 pelvic organ prolapse, specifically uterovaginal prolapse.

I knew things were a mess down there. You expect them to be after giving birth, right? But there are some messes that are a bit harder to “clean up” if you know what I mean. I didn’t tear; I just had a couple of small skid marks at the edge of my perineum. My midwife checked me out and said everything was fine. Even my broken tailbone was denied until my chiropractor did an x ray for me and proved what I already knew. I went to my family doctor a few months after birth, asking her to give me a referral to a pelvic floor physical therapist for pelvic organ prolapse because I knew I had it. She did a quick exam and told me everything was fine, and I had no prolapse. I felt dismissed. She gaslighted me. She wasn’t trained in pelvic organ prolapse. She didn’t even know the right ways to check for it, much less diagnose it. I asked her again a few more times over the next year, and was always dismissed. I gave up. I resigned myself to the new troubles I was having as a new way of life.

Over the years, it would improve for a while, especially when I was more sexually active. But during the times when I was not, it would worsen considerably. A student midwife friend of mine told me I just needed to “use it” more. She might have been right, but it’s hard to get in the mood when you’re in pain, or your cervix is hanging out of your body.

In early 2020, I broke my ankle and spent 4 months unable to walk. I only really had sex one time during that timeframe, and it didn’t last long. Without any reminders, my vagina seemed to forget where it was supposed to be. I found myself having to “tuck myself in” more often, and had to wear my period panties all month long because of worsening leakage when I coughed or sneezed. I had more difficulty with urinating and bowel movements, regardless of their consistency, because my rectum was fighting with my bladder for the open space in my vagina. My vagina would bleed after bowel movements, because it would get over-stretched and the walls would tear a little each time, unless I remembered to “splint” it. I had to urinate much more frequently while on my period, when my cervix was at its lowest in my cycle. Whenever I tried to have sex with my husband, I would have to stop very quickly and then curl up in bed, crying in pain after he hit my uterus, so we stopped trying to have sex at all.
Finally, as I recovered from my injury and began walking again, I got determined to demand the care that I needed and deserved. No one deserves to suffer the way I had. I got a new doctor, who referred me without even doing an exam because she knew she was not qualified to diagnose pelvic organ prolapse. At first, the specialist I saw sounded like she was skeptical of my symptoms. I’m young and relatively healthy. I couldn’t possibly be having this much trouble. My body couldn’t be doing the things I said it was doing. Bodies simply don’t work that way.
Halfway through the exam, I finally got the validation I’d been seeking for 5 years. “OH! NOW I see the problem!” That’s what I heard her shout from between my legs, as she poked and prodded and told me to bear down. The tone of shock in her voice sent a chill up my spine, and filled me with dread, while a wave of relief at finally being vindicated washed over me at the same time. She concluded the exam, and had me hold a rubber glove by two of its fingers. She held the other end, and gestured to the palm of the glove. “This is your vagina,” she said. “And these are the ligaments that hold up the top of your vagina,” she continued, as she pointed to the fingers I was holding. “And this is what is happening to your vagina,” she explained, as she had me move the tips of the fingers to meet her hand at the bottom of the glove. My vagina was collapsing because the ligaments that hold it up had become stretched and lax. She showed how I was correct that it was my cervix that was protruding from my vagina and having to be tucked back in. She explained that it was blocking my urethra, making it difficult to urinate or fully empty my bladder. The harder I’d try, the more blocked it would become. My uterus was hanging down and filling the space, putting it in the path of my husband’s penis. She told me that it was technically stage 2 prolapse, but would feel like stage 3 to me because of the protrusion of my cervix.
We wanted to have another child. This news was devastating. I can’t even perform the act of trying to get pregnant, much less carry a baby, with everything trying to fall out of my body! And surgery to repair it would make it dangerous to attempt pregnancy again.
Thankfully, she did give me hope that a pessary and physical therapy could improve things enough to make it possible to have another baby, and pregnancy might even help hold things in place as my uterus got too big to fall into my vagina anymore. So we scheduled my pessary fitting, and she referred me to a pelvic floor physical therapist.

Unfortunately, at my first visit with my physical therapist, I was informed they will no longer take my insurance beyond the end of this month, and there are no insurances I could switch to that they will take. The next closest one is over an hour and a half away. I can’t drive 3+ hours round trip multiple times a week! I have a business to run and children to care for. It simply is not feasible for me.
Lucky for me, and for anyone reading this and going through similar, but unable to get treatment, I won’t give up that easily. Stay tuned for updates on my journey as I learn more about pelvic organ prolapse and ways to treat it without a professional physical therapist.