‘Our Bodies Belong to Us: Restoring Black Autonomy and Joy!’
Submitted by the Erie County Department of Health
By Parveen Attai, MPH, Public Health Fellow
April 11-17 is Black Maternal Health Week, dedicated to raising awareness and taking action in support of Black maternal health.
“We know that Black maternal health disparities exist in the U.S.,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein. “Compared to other racial and ethnic groups, Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications.”
Black maternal health disparities can be attributed to factors such as structural racism, implicit bias, differences in health care quality, and undetected and underlying chronic conditions. Social and economic factors such as housing instability, transportation barriers, food insecurity, substance use and violence also impact Black maternal health.
“Every single pregnancy-related death is one too many, especially because the data shows that more than 80% of pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. can be prevented,” said Office of Health Equity Director Kelly Wofford. “As highlighted in our Health Equity in Erie County report, discrimination at the provider, facility and system levels of care is a top contributing factor to Black maternal death in New York state.”
“It is our collective responsibility to come together to improve Black maternal health,” she emphasized.
Pregnant people and their families can advocate for themselves by knowing the urgent maternal warning signs, such as extreme headache, overwhelming fatigue, severe swelling of hands or face, trouble breathing or heavy vaginal bleeding or discharge. It is also important to talk to health care providers if something is concerning, and to update them on pregnancy history during medical care visits for one year after delivery.
Health care providers and health care systems can recognize and address unconscious biases in themselves. They can also help patients understand urgent maternal warning signs and chronic conditions or conditions that may arise in pregnancy, such as hypertension, diabetes or depression. It is also important to provide quality prenatal and postpartum care and to train non-obstetric providers to ask about recent pregnancy history.
Black Mamas Matter Alliance’s theme for Black Maternal Health Week is “Our Bodies Belong to Us: Restoring Black Autonomy and Joy!” Their campaign encourages the use of evidence-based solutions that incorporate the true needs, wants and desires of Black women and birthing people.