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Black Maternal Mortality

In Western Society, dying during childbirth is not a popular phenomenon. Even dying while pregnant is not seen nearly as much as it once was. Thanks to new technology and proactive medication, maternal death can be prevented at a rate it’s never been before. For Black birthers, this is not their reality. No one should have to go to the hospital preparing to leave with a baby, and instead have life threatening health issues or possibly die. According to the CDC, Black people are 3-4x more likely to die during childbirth than White people. Canada however, follows a “colour-blind” collection of statistics where no racial information is gathered. At times race-evasiveness can seem progressive, but it actually ignores the structural, historical, and cultural racism experienced in institutions. There is a clear racial disparity, but it maintains a secret if Canadian healthcare isn’t willing to address it. 


Postpartum depression (PPD) is an unfortunate reality for many people after birth. However, Black birthers are the most likely to present with depressive symptoms, but the least likely to be diagnosed. Why, you ask? Black individuals experience cumulative racism, which can lead to cardiovascular and health issues. When you’re already at risk of health issues, the process of labour and birth create an even more vulnerable patient. Combined with a predisposition to poor health outcomes, Black patients experience lower quality of care, undertreatment of pain, feeling mistreated or ignored by healthcare providers, and delayed/inaccurate diagnoses (Howell et al., 2015). Postpartum psychosis is understudied in Black birthers, despite the prevalence of it in this population. To support decolonizing health data, Black researchers need to be recruited for this intervention.   


Ideas presented are keeping Black birthers in the hospital for longer afterward, but this can lead to the oversurveillence of them. We can’t go into solutions with the notion that this group of people are broken. If we know Black patients are at a higher risk of health issues, proactive and preventative measures need to be taken. Instead of keeping Black birthers in hospitals waiting for something to go wrong, prescreen at risk populations for health issues at their first appointment. Leaving it to postpartum is way too risky. With AI, preventative measures can be put in place to identify early warning signs in possible maternal complications. This would need to be a practice adopted for all birthing people at hospitals, otherwise data can be biased and skewed. An AI system put in place using all previous information made to predict if a patient is high risk for PPD would no longer take a reactive stance on aiding our patients in need. 


One of the biggest reliefs of PPD is having someone watch your child for a portion of the day. If you’re a low income or single parent, this isn’t always a viable solution. Privilege takes shape here with only parents who can afford consistent early childcare being able to possibly recover. If you have a child, think about what meant the most to you. What support systems helped you through the newborn stage? Any online sites, programs, or groups? Were there specific stores, or just special people in your life? If you’re comfortable let us know! Contact us through email at team@reyahealth.ca or send us a DM @reyahealth! 




References 

Dayo, E. (2022). Health in colour: black women, racism, and maternal health. The Lancet Regional Health. Vol 17, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lana.2022.100408

 

Howell, E. et al., (2012). “Reducing Postpartum Depressive Symptoms Among Black and Latina Mothers: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Obstetrics and Gynecology (New York. 1953) 119 (5): 942–49. https://doi.org/10.1097/AOG.0b013e318250ba48.


Lister et al. (2019). Black Maternal Mortality-The Elephant in the Room. World J Gynecol Womens Health. 10.33552/wjgwh.2019.03.000555

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