4 Things Birth Pros Want Black Women to Know About Childbirth
Black Maternal Health Week is April 11–17. This week is intended to build activism, community, and awareness to help end racial disparities, reduce maternal mortality rates, and give all families the respect, rights, and resources to have healthy pregnancies and births.
Preparing for a baby’s arrival can be a joyous time for expectant parents, full of milestones like hearing the baby’s heartbeat for the first time, decorating the nursery, and picking out a name. Still, it’s very normal to feel apprehension about what the birth process might be like. And it doesn’t help if you’re concerned you could encounter racial bias in the delivery room.
To help you take a deep breath and let go of any anxious feelings about childbirth, we asked birth professionals what they wished every Black expectant parent knew. Their thoughtful answers might be just the thing you need to calm your nerves.
1. Hospital Birth Can Be a Safe Choice
Anya Bazzell, M.D., a board-certified family medicine physician at the Institute for Family Health in New York City, wishes that more Black pregnant women knew that they could indeed have a safe labor and delivery experience in a clinical setting.
Although the statistics say that Black women are at an increased risk for adverse childbirth outcomes, it doesn’t mean you need to avoid hospitals altogether.
“I see a lot more Black women considering home births because of social media fads and because they’re convinced that hospital settings are just not for us,” Bazzell says. “Not so. Home births can be beautiful, but it is imperative to be close to an operating room in case of emergency.”
2. All Birth Is Natural
Leah Hairston, M.S.S.W., a traveling doula based in Baltimore, says she always knew that helping parents give birth was her calling. Hairston wants you to understand that despite the common term “natural birth,” all kinds of births are valid. "Some are medicated, some are unmedicated, some are vaginal or via cesarean section,” she says, “but they're all natural.”
With the help of a healthcare professional, you’ll likely create a birth plan that’s right for you and your baby. But plans often change, and what’s most important is that you’re both safe during and after the delivery.
Daisy Nwosu, a registered labor and delivery nurse in Los Angeles, believes there are unfortunate misconceptions about C-sections. “Many think it’s the ‘easy way out,’ which isn’t the case,” she says. ”It’s major surgery with a long recovery time.”
3. It’s Important to Understand the Birthing Process
Davon Crawford, a certified full-spectrum doula and student midwife in Vallejo, California, says she wishes more expectant parents “knew about childbirth, the general process of labor and delivery, and the reasons why someone might become a candidate for C-section.”
The more you know about how birth typically unfolds, the better you can advocate for your care. Taking a birth class at your hospital or birthing center is an excellent way to learn the basics.
4. Your Care Team Is There to Help You Make the Right Choices for You
Black women and birthing persons have the right to feel seen, heard, and respected—and to make informed choices about their care. Complications can happen during childbirth. If they happen, ask questions and communicate any concerns with your doctor and nurses. If you have accurate and complete information, you can make the right choice for yourself and your baby.
“My job is to work as quickly and efficiently to educate patients on their options and plan of care,” Nwosu says. After all, the ultimate goal is always the same: a healthy birthing parent and a baby delivered safely.
Remember, says Jerah Robinson, a senior student midwife at Sweet Beginnings Midwifery Care in Las Vegas: "You are made and shaped for this, and you are the best person to deliver your baby."
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