Leighya Richard’s first childbirth experience is something she would rather forget. After experiencing significant pelvic bone separation that left her in excruciating pain and affected her ability to walk, one of Richard’s friends, who was also an OB/GYN, suggested that Richard get an X-ray.
“I asked the hospital to look into this concern, but they turned me down multiple times,” explained Richard from Orlando, Florida. “The doctor who treated me also tried to give me strong narcotics and opiates to pacify me. I ended up firing that doctor and threatened to walk out against medical advice if I didn’t get a pelvic X-ray.”
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Although Richard eventually obtained the x-ray, the traumatic childbirth experiencethat she said was clearly racially motivated exposed her to America’s longstanding discriminatory health care system.
“They thought I was looking for drugs because I was complaining about my pain,” Richard continued. “I ended up going to another practice for aftercare and they weren’t helpful either.”
Richard’s experience is not isolated. In fact, African Americans are systematically undertreated for pain. compared to white Americans due to the (medically incorrect) belief that blacks experience less pain. The rates of abuse of women of color during pregnancy are significantly higher than their white counterparts according to the results of a 2019 survey published in Reproductive Health. Weather Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causesthe rise of the COVID-19 pandemic accompanied by the failure of healthcare infrastructure has only made this crisis worse.
“They thought I was looking for drugs because I was complaining about my pain. I ended up going to another practice for aftercare and they weren’t helpful either.”
The recent decision of US Supreme Court on June 22 to overturn Roe vs. Wade —meaning that constitutional abortion rights no longer exist in much of the country—can also exacerbate maternal deaths among black people pregnant and giving birth. Women and pregnant people in their 20s accounted for more than half of abortions according to 2019 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The same statistics also revealed that black women are five times more likely to seek abortion services compared to their white counterparts. The lack of that option can be detrimental to black women, who are more likely to experience complications during childbirth such as hemorrhage.
For example, the state of Mississippi, representing 12 percent of blacks introduced an anti-abortion law in March that makes it illegal to have an abortion for an ectopic pregnancy (in which the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus), similar to another law passed in Missouri. Ectopic pregnancies can be fatal if not diagnosed early and are more common among black women of reproductive age according to a 2014 study. They are also the fifth leading cause of maternal death among black women.
For Black millennials contemplating the parenting journey, this recent ruling, plus the additional burden of the COVID-19 pandemic, can be frightening, creating distrust and fear in the health care system, especially as new data is released each year. showing no improvement.
“The combination of multiple factors in health care inequity, such as medical maltreatment and racial bias in pain assessment, induce detrimental psychological effects,” he explained. Dr. Raquel Hammonds, Director of Integrative and Preventive Medicine at Carrotfertility. “This understandably prevents black millennials from feeling confident enough to be parents in our current healthcare system.”
And denying people safe conditions to make their family planning decisions also ultimately denies them the ability to make those decisions freely.
A 2021 survey of 1,000 US millennials by The Harris Poll on behalf of CNBC Make It revealed that a quarter of those surveyed said they had decided to wait longer to have children due to the pandemic, while 19 percent had given up the idea of having an additional child or children due to the pandemic. .
Richard, for example, initially wanted four children. Being exposed to multiple stories a week about women dying in childbirth, even more so during a pandemic, has solidified her decision not to risk her life for the sake of her two children. Working like a perinatal mental health therapistRichard noted that the maternal mortality crisis has also negatively affected his black clients’ desire to have multiple children.
“Even my friend, who is an OB/GYN, is terrified of dying during childbirth; however, she has given birth to hundreds of babies,” Richard said.
For others, like 24-year-old Princess Shodipo of London, who is also a mother of two, witnessing the inequity that the pandemic has highlighted for Black women has made them lose interest in entrusting their lives and health. in the hands of the health system. . Shodipo, who has given birth twice during the pandemic, said she never knew there was a higher risk of black women dying in childbirth until she became pregnant.
“Giving birth during the pandemic was honestly my most stressful experience,” Shodipo recalled. “I kept thinking about Nicole Thea, a YouTube star who died along with her unborn child during the pandemic, and I was wondering if I would be next. During my second pregnancy, my midwife pointed out my high blood sugar levels, which had not been accounted for during my first pregnancy. I could have potentially died from gestational diabetes and yet no one told me.”
Such health disparities are made worse by the high prevalence of preexisting conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular problems in black women. who have been known for affect the high death rate of black people pregnant and giving birth.
Dr Rachel McConnellfertility expert at the Columbia University Fertility Center, noted that some millennials, including black millennials, have expressed similar concerns to her.
“Some say they would like to wait until the pandemic is over to contemplate the parenting journey,” McConnell said. “No one would want to give birth with the added fear of the unknown due to a pandemic.”
While Shodipo says she was lucky to have her partner with her in both cases, she no longer has children: “I don’t want my life or my children’s lives to be left in the hands of people who aren’t willing to show compassion at all.”
Improve access to health care and Health disparities need to be reduced on reversing this worrying trend among black millennials. Fertility care should also be accessible to everyone, regardless of age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, and marital status.
Since representation is a key factor in inclusion, the health industry needs to increase commitment to inclusion and increased representation of black health care providers — because most know the realities of Black health and can ensure that Black people who are pregnant and giving birth receive quality health care.
McConnell also suggests educating people of reproductive age who may become pregnant about their bodies and providing tools to help lower the risk of medical conditions associated with high mortality rates.
“Medical providers need to build trust with their patients and the community,” says McConnell, “so patients know they can share their issues and providers will listen and address them.”
And before you go, check out these essential books that focus on the mental and physical health of Black women:
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