♥ Black Birth Matters ♥
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.
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.