By Amiah Taylor for Poplar
A year ago I was visiting my OBGYN for a routine check-up. Looking at the different birth control options that were listed on the wall poster, a simple idea came to me. Why not have tubal ligation? Tubal ligation, which is more commonly known as “having your tubes tied” is a permanent procedure for women who don’t want to have any children. My male doctor (if that’s worth noting) immediately steered me away from it.
“I never recommend having this procedure done so young. You’re unmarried and you might want a family someday. This is a decision you should make together with your husband.”
I’m 24. Which is old enough to vote, drink, and marry...but not old enough to consider permanent birth control. It’s odd, right?
From a young age, I knew that motherhood didn’t seem to be for me. For one, new mothers always looked sleep deprived and crying babies annoyed me. I wanted my own fulfilling career. I wanted to be the star of my own life. I always pictured myself as a woman that would have it all —an art filled condo with wall to wall bookshelves, a passport that had been stamped over and over again, a kind husband who was an engineer or a businessman and maybe a cat or a pet cactus?
But even if I did want to have children, as a Black woman that is a notably deadly endeavour.
In honor of World Health Day, I invite you to think deeply about women’s health and what medical realities are often glaringly true for Black women. We carry and deliver children in the same hospitals that white women do but our mortality rates are far higher. It’s a necessity that we talk about childbirth and the rampant medical malpractice that is endangering expecting black mothers.
In CNN’s article “Childbirth is killing black women in the US, and here's why” Howard explains that Black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die of pregnancy or delivery complications than white women. Even taking into account education and income level, Black women are still facing maternal morbidity and infant mortality. When it comes to racial inequalities in health, the infant mortality rate for black babies is twice that for whites. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) infants born to well-to-do educated Black women are more likely to die before they reach a year as compared to white babies born to poor white mothers below a high school education.
In the New York Times article, “Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis,” Villarosa cites high blood pressure (which can be induced by pregnancy) and cardiovascular disease as two of the leading causes of maternal death and also notes the upward trend of preeclampsia which has increased over 70 percent from 1993 to 2014. Additionally, there is a trend in doctors pressuring Black women into getting c-sections versus having vaginal births; some of these women die from postpartum hemorrhaging. In the Washington Post’s “The disturbing reason some African American patients may be undertreated for pain” Somashekhar cited a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that found whether it’s an appendicitis or a bone fracture, African Americans are routinely under-treated for their pain compared with whites, on the basis of unfounded stereotypes. Medical students are still studying texts that say Black bodies can endure more pain and this is leading to subpar prenatal care and a dismissive attitude in doctors which results in largely preventable deaths.
Racism in the American healthcare system is no joke and it scares me that I could receive subpar care just because of the color of my skin. Medical malpractice in America is very real, especially if you’re a Black woman. This World Health Day consider what you can do to advance Black maternal health rights. Align yourself with a charity looking to aid Black women’s health preceding, during, and after pregnancy like the Black Mamas Matter Alliance.
Additionally, don’t forget to mark your calendar for Black Maternal Health Week, which takes place each year from April 11th to 17th. Participate in the online roundtables and discussions on the unique challenges and experiences that Black mothers have in America. Familiarize yourself with the free resources and do your part to be a legitimate ally for Black women!