“Of all forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane. Just as crippling and just as hard to reverse.” Martin Luther King Jr.
Black women are the most targeted ethnicity/race in humanity facing every extent of poor outcomes in healthcare. All other races possess better outcomes in today’s medical-techno society. The question is not found in another study to find out why, but when and where the gap grew into a crisis.
History of experimentation
Long after Leonardo Da Vinci’s medical experimentations with corpses, it was the Black female slave who endured the many medical experimentations in gynecology and obstetrics in early American scientific research history. Many live, Black females endured horrific bodily transgressions in the name of scientific experimentation as the ‘scientists’ believed the Black woman felt no pain. This activity continued for centuries.
Fast forward to today: the Black woman is still the recipient of medical discrimination especially in maternal healthcare. “The most hostile place for a Black child is the Black mother’s womb” one billboard highlighted in New York City several years ago. While this statement is completely outrageous, there is a deafening ring of truth as well.
Black women possess the poorest maternal outcomes than any other ethnicity: fetal demise, teen pregnancies, low birth weight babies, stillbirths, high prematurity, high C-section rates and poor breastfeeding and bonding with the newborn. Black women are now facing what scientist call “Epigenetic Inheritance” which is the outcome of continued racism over a span of generations. This action of racism is now imprinted on the DNA of Blacks. The stress of racism and oppression has resulted in the above with no end in sight.
What is a solution?
Access, advocacy, education, and diversity in maternal health care. The mainstreaming of maternal resources for Black women in pre-conceptual health, pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood. This resource comes in several forms from providers who are diverse and culturally competent in Black life, childbirth educators, doulas, midwives, obstetricians, lactation counselors, and all forms of post-partum support.
Resources are scarce
Many of the above resources are mainstream to ethnicities other than Blacks. Here in the Hudson Valley, Black maternal health statistics are the most severe with little to no resources or solutions to this acute crisis. There are no grants or funding focused on Black women of reproductive age to provide empowering services to change these dire statistics. It’s not just about funding (money). Black women in general are simply not in the know.
There have been a few media references to maternal resources for Black women, for example Tia & Tamara Mowery Television Show focused on pregnancy, one of the twins decided to hire a doula. Black women are simply left out of the communication loop of education access when it comes to maternal health resources.
There are many empowering agencies that focus on Black women and maternal health: Black Women Do Breastfeed, Doulas of Color, Black Women Do VBAC, International Center For Traditional Childbirth, Radical Doula, Mamatoto Village, Maternal Infant Network, Black Association of Midwives and more.
All is not dire for Black maternal health. There are many streams of education and awareness campaigns that are happening across the nation as more and more women of color are embracing roles in maternal health. The wave of awareness has to spread faster as there are Black babies being born every minute of every day. Churches, beauty/hair shops, libraries, and many organizations for Black History and Women’s History Month are disseminating education on resources empowering Black Maternal Health.
The action must be spread to Black organizations such as the National Association of Black Social Workers, NAACP, and to every Black sorority and fraternity. Politicians are to be held to task to ask the government to include funding that focuses solely on promoting positive Black maternal health outcomes. Agencies and funding must include monies in budgets for these services, rather than pay for another study that reveals the same outcome as it has for over 50 years. Yes, we know already; now let’s take positive, empowering action.
Yes I can
Lastly, it’s time for Black women to have conversations at the table about Black maternal health, to share their stories of successes and failures and to engage Black women to embrace seeking resources that will empower successful birth outcomes. It is time for ‘Mommy Mentors’, doulas, midwives and lactation counselors to engage in outreach to Black women, including them in their scope of services and practice.
I have dedicated 2015 as the start of the Decade of the Black Family. As a Black certified birth doula, I am engaging in my own personal campaign to promote awareness and to include Black women in these resources. The current epigenetic inheritance is not empowering, that can be changed. I have a dream, I have a vision; I have a goal. Yes I Can.
Denise Bolds has been a resident of the Hudson Valley for over 20 years and is from Harlem. She is a successful single parent of a son who holds a master’s degree and lives in New York City. Ms. Bolds has earned her undergraduate degrees from Dutchess Community & Marist Colleges and she has a Master’s Degree in Social Work. She is also a self-published author, her books are sold on Amazon and Denise has her own Internet radio show: “Black Motherhood Empowerment” where she is both producer and host. Denise has worked with women and their families for over 16 years, she now owns her own business, Bold Doula, where as a certified birth doula, Ms. Bolds continues to empower women, one birth at a time. In her free time, Denise is currently earning additional certifications, is an avid reader and reviewer and she participates in several organizations and activities. She loves to powerwalk.