Create a Birth Plan. What Birth Plans Need to Include for Black Mothers in America
Black pregnant women in the United States are suffering. Jarring statistics show black mothers are 3-4 times more likely than a white woman to die giving birth or shortly after. The black maternal mortality rate in the United States, is comparable to levels found in lower-income countries. The US rate is on par with Mexico, Brazil and Uzbekistan. Majority of the populations in these countries suffer from poverty—making these statistics even more frightening.
Given these statistics, it’s safe to say the United States is suffering from a black maternal mortality crisis.
Experiences of well-known black mothers such as Serena Williams, show us the experiences black pregnant women face stem past economic and social statuses. Many black mothers face inequitable and unjust treatment, due to unconscious bias present in the healthcare system.
Serena Williams has openly discussed her experience, and many black pregnant women face something similar. After giving birth to her daughter, Williams knew she was feeling symptoms of a blood clot—something she’d suffered from in the past. But it took her begging her doctors and nurses to do multiple tests, for them to believe her. If Williams had not advocated for herself, she very well could have suffered deadly consequences.
Unfortunately, Williams’ experience is not unique. Every day, black pregnant women in the US face unconscious bias in the healthcare system.
Knowing this, it is crucial that soon-to-be black mothers develop a birth plan. Having a birth plan will make you feel well prepared to take on the delivery process. It will also help alleviate some of the stress that comes with delivering a child as a black woman in the US. If pregnancy wasn’t stressful enough as is—black women need to make sure bias doesn’t cause them or their child unjust treatment in the delivery room.
If you’re a black woman giving birth in a hospital, you need to include these when you create a birth plan:
1) Prior to delivery, learn what’s normal…and what’s not
By staying informed, you’re more likely to know what to expect from your pregnancy. You can more easily pinpoint where unconscious bias may be creeping up in your experience. By recognizing these signs early, you’ll be better equipped to advocate for yourself.
With the internet at our fingertips, it’s easier than ever to stay informed. Prior to your delivery, be sure to educate yourself. If you’re a black woman giving birth in a hospital, you need to know what normally happens in the hospital. The best way you can advocate for your health is by knowing what to expect, and staying informed. It’s important you take time to learn what is normal during pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum.
2) Find a team that understands the concerns of black pregnant women
Your personal health is quite literally at the hands of your birthing team. It’s important you take time getting to know your team, and making sure they understand your concerns. It’s particularly important that they understand the concerns a black mother faces during her delivery.
This story of a complicated delivery, shows how this black mother believes having a black nurse saved her and her baby’s life. The people in the room with you matter. Delivery is already a very stressful situation, but having to worry about your race compounds that stress even more.
When you have a culturally competent team—made up of people who understand your concerns—your experience is likely to be less stressful.
3) Consider using a doula when you create a birth plan
A doula is typically an individual who stands by the mother’s side before, during, and shortly after her pregnancy. We highly encourage you to consider hiring a doula, especially if you’re concerned about your delivery experience.
A doula interfaces with your physician and has your best interests in mind. You have time to develop a relationship with her, before going into the delivery room. This gives her time to learn about your preexisting conditions and how you want your pregnancy to go.
Having a doula can help you feel better prepared to take on pregnancy as a black mother, because you have someone who can advocate for you on your side. This is an extra level of support to help you ease into motherhood, throughout your pregnancy.
4) Be prepared to speak up if something feels wrong
The main reason you’re creating a birth plan is to mitigate the unexpected. But that being said, if something seems wrong—don’t be afraid to speak up!
As was noted in Serena Williams’ case above, speaking up is what saved her life.
At the end of the day, no one knows you or your body better than you do. If something feels off or wrong—chances, are it is. You owe it to yourself and your baby to speak up when something just doesn’t seem right.
Ultimately, your healthcare providers want your delivery to go smoothly. Communicate what you’re feeling, what you need, and how your team can help.
5) Prioritize going for checkups regularly
We want to emphasize that your birth plan doesn’t just end after labor and delivery.
Postpartum care is absolutely crucial, especially as black mothers. The sad statistic is that black mothers are 3-4 times more likely than a white woman to die before or after they deliver. Labor and delivery are no doubt the hardest parts of pregnancy. But postpartum and adjusting to your new life as a mother are also extremely difficult.
It’s absolutely crucial that you prioritize your postpartum care. Regularly going in for check-ups and communicating your concerns to a trustworthy team are crucial to your health.
When developing your birth plan, be sure to talk to your team about:
- How often you should come in to see them
- What you should look out for postpartum
- Who you should contact with any questions or concerns
Navigating labor, delivery, and postpartum as black pregnant women in America is by no means easy. The black maternal mortality crisis our country is facing is jarring. But, making sure you’re well equipped and informed and create a birth plan that will make you feel more comfortable.
Pregnancy is a stressful, scary, and life-changing process for women. But, we also know motherhood is beautiful. Here at Connect2Heal we will do everything in our power to keep you informed and educated. We want you to experience more of the joys and beauty motherhood has to offer.
We encourage you to check out the Connect2Heal community, where we bridge the gap between people of color to therapists, doctors & specialists of color. Be sure to follow us on Instagram so you’re always up-to-date!