Today marks the final day of  National Black Maternal Health Week.  Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA) founded this week of observance in 2018 to bring attention to the black maternal healthcare crisis in America.  BMMA’s website shares, “The campaign and activities for black Maternal Health Week serve to amplify the voices of black mamas and center the values and traditions of the reproductive and birth justice movements.”  Their campaign focus is “Decolonizing Research to Develop Meaningful Policy for Black Maternal Health.” This is an absolutely critical need within the healthcare system.

Black women’s lives are overwhelmingly at stake in the maternal health care crisis. Because they are 3-4 times more likely to die from childbirth and/or postpartum complications than their white counterparts, we need research that depicts an accurate portrait of the current maternal health landscape. Accurate assessment and research will lead to better care for black babies and their mamas, and eventually healthy birth outcomes.

Researchers have linked this crisis and its horrifying statistics and data to systemic and institutionalized racism, not race. What does that mean? It means that there is no biological or  physiological connection between a person’s race and birth outcomes. But still, black women are more likely to be ignored, silenced, and shut down by their healthcare provider and other medical professionals simply because of the color of their skin. Even in 2019, we continue to face extreme racial divides that impact the quality of life for the most vulnerable members of our community–pregnant women and children under the age of one.

Black women receive and are subjected to lower standards of healthcare nationwide irrespective of wealth, social class, and education. If this makes you uncomfortable, good. There’s more.  

Pregnant black women are also more likely to be mislabeled as dramatic, problematic, and high-risk by the very people responsible for their medical management and care. This is why we need Black Maternal Health Week.

Here’s the equation:  

Black women + Pregnancy + Institutionalized racism + Limited access to care from providers who represent their culture, traditions, and values = Deadly Outcomes… which only lead to more loss, grief, and devastation in our families and community.

It’s plain and simple: black mothers are perishing and they will continue to die at this unacceptable rate until the industrial medical complex is overhauled. Pregnancy should not be a death sentence to black mothers. We are being robbed of the joy of creating life because we are in fear of losing our own lives.  

We all must do better. This crisis will not resolve itself.

We must do better by black mothers and babies by mobilizing swiftly, acting resolutely, and implementing solutions that will reverse these deadly trends.  These solutions should be focused on and grounded in bringing equity to marginalized communities, strategically advocating to highlight community-based collaborations, by increasing access to high-quality prenatal and postpartum care from medical providers who mirror the families they serve.  Simply put, we need more black midwives. We need financial support to train more black midwives. And finally, we need greater access to reach black midwives in our communities.

This is why we need Black Maternal Health Week.

We must:

  • create larger conversations within black communities, leading to cooperative action and support,
  • amplify the voices of Black mothers and babies, and
  • support black midwives, doulas, lactation specialists, obstetricians, educators, counselors, and other stakeholders who all collaborate and center the needs of black families.

This is why we need Black Maternal Health Week.  

Visit Black Mamas Matter Alliance at  https://blackmamasmatter.org/ to learn more and support their work.

Additional Reading:
Why America’s Black Babies are in a Life-or-Death Crisis
New York Times Magazine
Author: Linda Villarosa

America is Failing its Black Mothers
Harvard Public Health
Author: Amy Roeder

Race Isn’t a Risk Factor in Maternal Health Care. Racism Is.
Rewire. News
Author: Dr. Joai Crear-Perry

China Tolliver
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China Tolliver is the principal writer of the blog Pushed Out and the founder of the eCommerce community Rise Up Midwife. Visit riseupmidwife.com to read more of China’s work and to shop her latest line of apparel designed for impact. You can support China’s work by donating to paypal.me/chinatolliver