Black Maternal Health, Health Equity and Self CARE

Trigger Warning: Pregnancy Loss

Explore pregnancy and black maternal health, highlighting support and building care groups during Black Maternal Health Week. Find insights for self-care and advocacy. Black Maternal Health Week is April 11-17, 2024.

My Story

“The pregnancy implanted in your tube.”

I watched the screen carefully, followed the small cursor on the screen. The ultrasound was finally over when my OB removed the wand and wheeled her chair back. He began to explain exactly what this meant and expressed his concern with more of a sense of urgency than I expected.

“I’ll let you get dressed, let’s talk outside.”

I’m not sure whether to be relieved or worried. Weeks of back and forth, from my OB to the lab and back to the OB, culminating in a sense of gravity that I had never felt as a wife and mother until that moment.

It’s been a month since my initial concern about miscarriage was finally confirmed as an ectopic pregnancy implanted in my left Fallopian tube. I was working to navigate all the “news” in my life, and the weight of my health was not only busy, but it also added another level of stress to being the mother of a 6 month old, a two. -year-old and newly married.

As my wife and I listened to the doctor lay out the apparent situation of the embryo growing in my tube, his calmness was a welcome relief. He clearly laid out my options to remove the pregnancy: surgery or medication. I appreciate how thorough he is in explaining the options. He was transparent as he detailed the validity of each option.

Even more, I appreciated the presence of my husband. He held and caressed my hand with his thumb while I asked. His follow up questions, a show of support and advocacy, I didn’t realize I needed at this moment.

Throughout our conversation, my OB’s honesty helped fill in the gaps of the unknown and gave me as much understanding as possible, given the unfolding situation I was facing. My husband and I have discussed settling on more effective surgery, understanding that it is immediate, due to the growth and size of the pregnancy.

After we talked, I called my mom, who was watching the kids and explained the situation. She immediately went into mom/nurse mode; her knowledge from years of nursing was a welcome confirmation that I asked the right questions. As always, he went through our doctor/pre-procedure conversation checklist. “Did you tell them you have the hemoglobin C trait, did you make sure they knew you were allergic to iodine, did you tell them you had a sensitivity to anesthesia?” His intention was both comfort and a boost to my confidence in that moment.

As my husband and I walked the connecting sky bridge to the hospital, my mind slowed, and I felt better. I can’t help but feel grateful that I trusted my intuition and made sure to share my concerns and questions with my OB. In the busyness of motherhood, there are times when I question whether another trip to the labs or a missed nap time for an appointment is worth it.

My husband held me and prayed over me before preparing me for surgery. I sat on the operating table and went over my pre-procedure checklist, making sure they knew I was allergic to iodine, sensitive to anesthesia, and had a hemoglobin C trait. I was lost in silence and stillness.

It took years for me to fully process the true seriousness and significance of my experience. Before this happened, I had never heard of an ectopic pregnancy or really thought about the traumatic or adverse outcome of maternity. Recent events and headlines over the past two years of maternal deaths and stillbirths have brought tremendous awareness and gratitude for my own pregnancy-related emergency and outcome.

One of the main takeaways I held was the importance of practicing self CARE when it comes to health and health related situations. Looking back, I believe this was a key part of how I helped my OB provide responsive and effective care that kept my well-being as the focus of treatment for my health.

Owning your health is your absolute right! It can be scary to voice your concerns or take a stand on your health care, but self CARE is a method that creates the space and opportunity to build community around your health to support successful outcomes.

Practice self-care using these four principles:

C- Consider all your options. When planning your medical care or having a procedure, consider what you will need now and later. Choose a provider based on your needs and what will serve your best interests. Does the provider have other patients who look like you? Do you know someone who has been a patient? What is the practice/staff rated on patient review sites (Health scores, Rate MD, Vitals, Real Self, Zoc Doc, or even your insurance provider site)? At which hospital(s) does the doctor have privileges, and what are the reviews and quality star ratings of the hospital(s)? Use resources like Google and Yelp reviews or even the Care Compare tool on the Medicare website to find a facility you’re comfortable with. It’s definitely worth the time it takes to research and evaluate your options; your provider and the choice of hospital can be the difference between life and death.

It is important to know if you are choosing a facility that is birth friendly, baby friendly and respects their patient bill of rights. It’s also important to consider who is in your caregiving circle. You need a community around you whether you are married or single. Your partner, family, friends, doula, patient advocate, patient organizations, or even online groups are all great ways to create community around your care and help you consider important aspects of your care.

A- Stand up for yourself. Ask ALL the questions you can and share what you know. Asking questions and sharing is one of the best ways to help your doctor provide all the information you need and even help with the best care for you.

Remembering things you may be sensitive to, reminding you about allergies, sharing any past surgeries and recovery challenges and even voicing your concerns can improve communication between you and the people involved. in your care. How you communicate will also help to alleviate any fear you may have. Prepare yourself with as much information as possible so you can make the best decisions for yourself. Advocacy may look different for each of us, but some of the easiest ways are to use the “5 Ws and H”

  1. WHO will join my delivery? Who is responsible for my care after I give birth? Who do I contact if I have immediate concerns or an emergency?
  2. What should i expect during and after my delivery or procedure? What are some potential risks or side effects I should be aware of?
  3. When the generally expected recovery period? When should I return to my daily routine?
  4. where Can I go to get more information about side effects or effects on my health?
  5. Why choose this drug over a more natural solution? Why this method; is it medically necessary?
  6. how How can I best prepare for recovery? How will I know if I have recovered properly?

R- Resource gathering. Having a safe and supportive space to recover after giving birth is essential to your mental health. An important way to honor your mental and physical needs after childbirth is through resource gathering. A good starting point is to ask questions and research what types of resources and supports your insurance offers. Both state and private insurance have sources of support for which you are eligible as a new mother. Finding spaces, places, and groups in your community that can provide support in the form of peer connection, nutrition and meals, in-home check-ins, and even lactation support can help ease the burden of motherhood. Having a list of resources can make it easier to communicate your needs and get real-time support. There are many great community, postpartum, and family support organizations like Postpartum Support International that can help build mental and physical well-being after birth.

E- Engage in kindness. Unexpected things can happen, and sometimes our plans don’t work out. When challenges arise during your pregnancy, labor, or delivery, it’s important to remember that the best way for medical professionals, your care team, and for yourself to ensure healthy outcomes is to communicate. what you need or don’t know. Be generous while giving information, and ask for clarification where you don’t understand. Share your concerns and advocate for you and your baby. It doesn’t matter if you are a first or fifth time mom; Pregnancy, childbirth, and recovery are difficult. Be kind to yourself, recognize the signals your body is sending, and give yourself space to meet your needs in a healthy way. Resist the urge to put yourself last and let your recovery take its place.

Motherhood is a beautiful and challenging gift. My hope in sharing my story is to make room for each of us to practice self-care where our health is concerned. Be empowered to know that no matter your age, race, education, income or insurance type, you have options, and it’s your right to take ownership of your health care!

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About the Author

Renada Bey

Renada Bey

Renada Bey is a dynamic educator, published author, speaker and advocate for educational equity, mental health, and maternal wellness. Through her organization, Love Worth Work, she offers empowerment coaching and mental health support.

Follow her journey on Medium: Renada Bey.

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