Why We Should All Care About Black Maternal Health

June 22nd, 2021

By Kara Reynolds

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

Whether you’re an expectant mother of color or you’re a passionate racial justice ally, Black maternal healthcare deserves much more attention than it often gets both in the broader healthcare conversation and in policy formation. While the racial disparities in healthcare and the privatization of healthcare have long since caused issues for Black women and expectant mothers, those who sit at the intersection of those identities are statistically less likely to receive the care they need for themselves and their children. They are historically one of the most underserved demographic groups when it comes to healthcare, and that is a fact that needs to change.

No matter who you are, you can help dismantle the systems of oppression that continue to underserved Black women and Black mothers in the fields of healthcare as well as other public services. In order to address the racial disparity in maternal healthcare, we need to address systems of racism, classism, misogyny, homophobia and ableism that contribute to the oppression of Black women and Black mothers. There are plenty of ways that Black maternal healthcare can improve in its quality and accessibility. Here is exactly why we should all care about Black maternal healthcare.

Racial Disparities In Maternal Healthcare

One of the main reasons behind the racial disparities in maternal healthcare is the racial and gender inequalities that are present across all parts of the healthcare system. On average, Black individuals don’t receive the same quality of care that white people do on average, even when they have the exact same diagnosis. This can contribute to things like morbidity and mortality rates among people of color being higher than those of white people for the same exact medical conditions.

Even though pregnancy isn’t an illness, it is a condition that often requires healthcare, and these inequalities often manifest in Black mothers and other moms of color not receiving the care they need. The pregnancy related mortality rate is between three and five times higher for women of color than it is for white women. Specifically, Black and Indigenous mothers face the most impact.

Public Support for Maternal Healthcare

Since the United States operates in a system with privatized healthcare, factors like income disparity — which disproportionately impact people of color — can create barriers to proper medical care and maternal healthcare for those who can’t afford it. Even those who have health insurance might not have the coverage they need with it, which is why expanding government healthcare and moving to a universal healthcare system would be the best way to handle these issues. For example, Senate Bill 359 would expand Medicaid coverage for postpartum women from 60 days to one year, which can help all mothers on Medicaid access better care.

In addition to systems like Medicaid, programs and organizations like Planned Parenthood need extended support, as they can be some of the most crucial resources for mothers who would otherwise go without healthcare. Many people go to Planned Parenthood as their primary care provider for all kinds of doctors appointments, tests and ongoing care. If we want to support Black maternal healthcare, we need to support accessible healthcare, which includes current public programing and the eventual expansion of a public healthcare system.

Intersectionality

Intersectionality is a word that gets tossed around a lot, and it can be useful in many contexts. Here, it can be important to recognize why Black mothers and women of color in general need more support when it comes to healthcare. While the insurance gap and racial disparity in healthcare plays a role in the need for better care, misogyny also plays a role, too. Women are much more likely to be believed and taken seriously about medical issues, pain and concerns, and often, pregnant people are taken less seriously about their medical concerns because pregnancy is such a varied experience. This specifically leaves indigenous and Black women as the most underserved demographics in healthcare — and this doesn’t change when they become mothers.

Resources

If you are a mom of color or an expecting mom of color — or you know someone who is — and you’re looking for healthcare and information-based resources for you or someone you know, there are so many out there to choose from. When it comes to information resources, the NATAL podcast, Mama Glow’s website and Choices in Childbirth are great for helping inform Black moms. For healthcare, advocacy and maternal care, check out organizations like Sista Midwife Productions, Feminist Women’s Health Center, Commonsense Childbirth Services and of course, your local Planned Parenthood, which are widely available in many states.

Supporting Black Maternal Healthcare

Black maternal healthcare is important, because everyone deserves the proper access to the care they need. By supporting legislation towards a universal healthcare system, working to dismantle systems of oppression that keep Black women from the care they need and sharing resources that provide services to moms of color, we can all do our part to support Black maternal healthcare.

Also by Kara Reynolds:

About the author:

Kara Reynolds is the Editor-in-Chief and founder of Momish Magazine.  Mom, stepmom, and wife – Kara wants to normalize big blended families. She enjoys pilates, peanut butter, and pinot grigio – but not at the same time.


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