“There’s something inherently wrong with the system that’s not valuing the lives of Black women equally to white women.”Former Chief Medical Officer for Planned Parenthood Federation of America (Current CEO at Power to Decide)
Racial and socioeconomic inequities are seen across all aspects of healthcare, from the difficulties of accessing quality care to delays in diagnosis. This is especially true with regards to the health of women of color. Women often have their symptoms dismissed and are more likely to receive a later health diagnosis in comparison to men. On average, it takes seven years for a woman to be diagnosed with endometriosis, a condition that causes chronic pelvic pain. A Black woman often endures this chronic pain even longer due to misdiagnosis and the medical dismissal of their pain. Until recently, doctors were more likely to associate a Black woman’s pelvic pain with Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, an infection usually caused by sexually transmitted bacteria.
Black women are three to four times more likely to die from childbirth and have more complications during pregnancy/birth in comparison to white women. Maternal mortality is shown to improve when a Black woman has a Black obstetrician (a doctor specializing in pregnancy and childbirth). Due to a shortage in BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) doctors, many women are turning to doulas — professionals trained in holistic care for the mother and child during pregnancy, childbirth and recovery) — to help advocate during their pregnancy and birth. Using a doula is linked to a decrease in C-section rates and an improvement in Black maternal health in pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum.
The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened outcomes for pregnant women — and women of color in particular — causing significant increases in maternal anxiety and depression and a decrease in prenatal care visits. Today’s materials go into more detail on the racial disparities in women’s maternal health and how services like doulas are working to provide women support.