Not Another Statistic: How to Advocate for Yourself as a Pregnant Black Woman
Chances are, if you’re reading this blog post, then you’re already aware of how troubling the United States’ Black maternal mortality rate is. With Black women coming in as 2.5 times more likely to die from pregnancy than non-Hispanic white women, being pregnant while Black in America doesn’t come without anxiety and the fear of not being listened to by medical professionals.
No Black mama wants to become just another number of an alarming statistic, and they shouldn’t have to. We obviously can’t rely on healthcare providers or the very systems that harm us to change their ways and provide better Black maternal health outcomes. But what we can do is learn how to be our own advocates.
If you’re a Black woman who’s pregnant or planning to become pregnant in the future, you do have the power and right to hold the healthcare system accountable, and you should—for your safety and your baby’s.
Here are five things you can do to speak up for the two of you:
1. Find Black healthcare providers.
We know that implicit bias and racism are crucial causes of health disparities and adverse health outcomes for people of color, so seek out a medical provider who will understand you and the complexities you face as a Black woman.
Do your research, check reviews, and ask people you know about their experiences with any provider you’re interested in to determine if it could be a good fit.
2. Gather and organize your personal and family health history.
Having your own and your family’s records available for your doctor is an excellent way to provide them with important information that could be essential for your care plan.
About 60% of maternal deaths are preventable, so having information organized and on-hand to assist with your treatment could be vital.
3. Rally your support.
It never hurts to have others besides yourself who can advocate for you on your behalf. This could be trained birth workers such as a doula or even a loved one with a medical background.
Having someone else present who’s educated themselves on protocols and patient care can be grounding and extremely important for your health. The nurses are also there to advocate on behalf of their patients, so don’t forget to lean on them, too.
4. Ask questions.
Your first doctor’s appointment should feel like an interview. The doctor will be your guide throughout your entire pregnancy, so you want to make sure you feel safe in their hands. There’s no such thing as asking “too” many questions when it comes to your health.
5. Know your rights.
It’s easier to speak up when something feels off when you’re educated on your rights. So do your research, take notes, and remember that you always have the right to see another doctor at any point in your pregnancy.
For more on patient advocacy and Black maternal health, Black Mamas Matter Alliance is an excellent Black-led resource.