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  • Writer's pictureAnnabelle Steele

Black Maternal Health Awareness Week - 13th - 18th September

Updated: Oct 16, 2021

My experience

As a Black woman finding out that you are pregnant brings about a range of emotions. Emotions such as excitement, love, and fear! There are very few Black mothers that won't have heard the statistic that Black women are 5 times more likely to die during pregnancy, childbirth and during the 6 months after. 5 TIMES!!

As a Black woman, when pregnant this statistic constantly plays on your mind at every milestone, every midwife check-up, and every scan. Every time the word RISK is mentioned you feel as though you are 5 times more likely to be at risk. Black women are more likely to suffer from pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes and blood clots so for Black women, pregnancy can be extremely anxiety inducing!

When I found out I was pregnant with the twins my life flashed before my eyes, not only because of the shock but because I realised that multiple pregnancies are riskier and more complications can occur during birth. This teamed with the '5 times more likely' stat absolutely terrified me. Throughout my pregnancy, I did lots of reading about how I could make sure I was safe throughout and after. I needed to know what I could do and one of the key messages was to ensure that I had good communication. This was really difficult as I was consultant-led, my consultant was never available, I didn't have a team of midwives because with multiple births you usually have a consultant. At times it was impossible to reach them which made it difficult to have healthy communication. When I did reach them I felt like they treated me as though I should know what I was doing which I feel was due to an unconscious bias.

As a result, I cried so many times as I felt they didn't care. They weren't treating me like this was a big deal which it totally was to me. The worse part was that they also weren't listening and that was scary. This poor communication led to several issues throughout my pregnancy that meant I was often much more uncomfortable or stressed or anxious than I needed to be.

On the day of my C- Section all that was going through my mind was the fact that I hadn't had the chance to finish the letter that I wanted my husband to read if I didn't survive!

Luckily, my C-Section was amazing and all went well, but following the birth of the twins, it started again. The midwives just kept telling me that my scar was healing fine even when I had concerns, I wasn't convinced, but they were "amazed" by how well it had healed. It had healed, quicker, faster, and better than any they had ever seen. All I could think was "How many scars have you seen on Black skin?", "Is it really healing superbly well or does it just not look red?"

Luckily, I listened to my gut and took myself to the hospital and it turns out it was infected. This leads me to believe that the midwives that attended to me haven't seen enough scars on Black skin they didn't do anything wrong but their lack of experience with Black mothers shone through. That teamed with the fact that they weren't listening led me to be in a dangerous position because what they thought was beautifully healed actually had small tears and was infected.

At my 8 Week, postnatal check-up (over the phone) communication was lacking again. I described pains and loss of sensation across my entire stomach and a tender lump at my belly button. I wasn't asked to come in... instead, I was asked "What sort of advice are you expecting?" I've since learned that this is a hernia that will need operating on. Luckily, it's not life-threatening but it could have been! Nobody would have known and that lack of communication was dangerous and I'm sure it is something that has been experienced by lots of women from different ethnicities. But that teamed with the worrying statistics is why Black women spend pregnancy and at least 6 months after giving birth in a constant state of fear!

This is just my experience and it wasn't the same with my first child and it isn't the reality for every Black woman, but due to this type of experience and other varying factors, many Black women don't survive to be mothers.

What is it? This week marks the second annual Black Maternal Health Awareness Week. The week-long campaign run by Five x more aims to highlight the disparities in maternal outcomes for Black women. Why is it important? The MBBRACE report 2018 uncovered that Black women in the UK had and continue to have a higher risk of dying in pregnancy in comparison to White women. • White women: 8 in 100,000 dying • Asian women: 15 in 100,000 dying (twice more likely) • Mixed ethnicity women: 25 in 100,000 dying (three times more likely) • Black women: 34/100,000 dying (four times more likely)

They say that this is due to a number of factors but more research is needed to help us to understand exactly why Black women are at more risk of dying during pregnancy, childbirth and within the first 6 months after. What needs to be done?

Alongside more research, there is lots that still needs to be done. Currently more support for Black mothers- to - be needs to be offered, in the form of supporting those with deficiancys and or underlying medical conditions or even those that present as fit and healthy. There needs to be better support for their mental health by simply listening to them and not making them feel as though they have no voice/ don't matter.

Work needs to be done to undo the unconscious bias that some healthcare workers have and more work needs to be done to help healthcare workers to understand how things may look different or present differently for Black women when pregnant, when in labour and after labour.

For more information follow @fivexmore_ on Instagram.

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