By Janica Maya (@janicamaya)
Childbirth is an unforgettable experience for many women as they fight physical and emotional pain for months, but it is a tougher battle for many Black women as they continue to face racism throughout their pregnancy. The impact of racism and ongoing exploitation negatively affects Black women’s maternal health as the health care system overlooks their needs and issues.
A study at McGill University found that Black women in Canada have higher rates of premature births when compared to white women.
Institutional racism at the health care system connects to the negative outcome of Black women’s maternal health.Medical care providers have power over the decision of their client’s body and with their biased assumption of Black women; they lack information of their needs. This leads to mistreatment, trauma, and violence.
In addition, patients have a lack of understanding of their own bodies and they do things according to what care providers think is right.
According to Elsie Amoako – CEO, Mommy Monitors: “Care providers do not acknowledge the experience of Black women. They will decide based on their best judgement, but their judgement may not be what’s best for the mother.”
In Canada, the lack of race-based data in the health care system ignores the issues faced by many Black women. Care providers continue to have control over their bodies as they struggle to have anyone advocating on their behalf.
During these pandemic times, Black women face the fear of separation from their babies and mistaken to have any COVID-19 symptoms by care providers. The pandemic has put a financial strain in their lives of whether they can afford to provide the necessities to raise a child - and it is an issue that some did not have to deal with before.
The role of a doula can be an essential support for women in providing guidance throughout their pregnancy. They can increase healthy birth outcomes for women who are at-risk of negative maternal health because of racial and socioeconomic disparities.
Doulas can empower their clients by giving them the tools and comfort in acknowledging their birthing rights. Birthing rights are the fundamental human rights value of dignity, autonomy, and equality, and women should have the same rights during their pregnancy. Women can practice their birthing rights by understanding they have autonomy over their own bodies.
After childbirth, many women go through postpartum depression. The birth of a baby can affect the women physically, emotionally and mentally with feelings of deep sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion. Racism is an add-on stress that intensifies postpartum effects for Black women due to the mental and physical trauma they experience in the health care system.
According to Mali: “When you experience racism, you might not get all the information to have the optimum recovery such as postpartum support, and so a lot of Black birthing bodies end up feeling isolated.”
The racial bias in the health care system overshadows the care and treatment Black women have the rights to receive. “Black people are not monolith - each Black person comes from a different group and they have different experience and needs,” adds Elsie.