We all know the gut-wrenching stats and realities regarding Black women and health disparities rooted in racism, ignorance and outdated healthcare methods & models. Despite the health industrial complex's somewhat acknowledgment of this in recent years, not much has changed for Black mothers or their families. In fact, the rates of Black maternal mortality have increased since the pandemic began. And while there are so many reasons why this matter in itself is an unnecessary yet ongoing plight, Black women still have a long way to go when it comes birth & health equity.
So what can you do to make sure you are protected and have the birth experience you desire? Below are some suggested things you can do to better prepare for pregnancy & birth.
- Start Preparing Early-Whether you are planning to get pregnant or it's a surprise, it's never too early to start preparing for baby. Nutrition is the first place to start. A healthy body usually means a healthy baby. Eating a healthy and balanced diet with vitamin enriched foods will be good for your womb and growing baby. I highly recommend preconception support from a doula or your OB/midwife if you are planning to get pregnant in the next six months. Prenatal vitamins are also a great addition for overall health. You can take them before and after pregnancy too. Food for thought: what will your life look and feel like with a new baby?
- Proper Prenatal Care-Once your pregnancy is confirmed, you will want to seek a proper prenatal care. A highly rated obstetrician or midwifery practice will be your best options. You will be seen by your chosen provider periodically throughout pregnancy. Please be sure to choose a provider who is knowledgeable, listens to you, answers your questions and has a good bedside manner. If you find you aren't receiving quality care, don't hesitate to change providers at ANY time during pregnancy. There is no such thing as "too late" when it comes to receiving or deserving good health care.
- Build Your Birth Team-Aside from good prenatal care, you will want to take take it a step further by building a birth team. A birth team is a group of support people who will be there for you in some capacity during pregnancy and birth. This includes your partner, other family, friends, your OB, midwife and of course your friendly neighborhood doula! Even seeing a chiropractor, lactation consultant and pelvic floor therapist in the fourth trimester have proven benefits for mom and baby during postpartum recovery. Having a strong birth team who are all in support of you and your birth plan is an added level of comfort I can't explain.
- Make Room (Physically, Emotionally and Mentally): As you and your body transform and prepare for a new phase of your life, you will need to truly embrace the transition. It will be beneficial to let go of the things that no longer serve you. Schedules, activities and daily life as you know it will change so don't fight it. Identify your helpers and don't take any relationship changes personal. Your people will show up for you-no one else matters. Clear the clutter of your mind and release any negative thoughts or doubt. Everything you feel and carry, your baby will feel and carry.
- Do You-Every pregnancy and birth is different and it is important to celebrate yourself throughout your journey. Ignore unsolicited advice and plan your birth the way you want. Every decision (from your pregnancy announcement to your birth plan) ultimately comes down to you and your partner.
- More to Monitor: As a Black woman, there are additional things that we need to monitor while pregnant and also during the postpartum period. Your blood pressure being one main thing. Elevated blood pressure can indicate a greater issue like preeclampsia. Again, nutrition is very important as baby takes all of your nutrients (including the reserves you have stored up). Dental check ups can be beneficial as calcium can be depleted during pregnancy. Ask for help when you need it-the "strong black woman" complex is over and done. Whole self care (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) is essential to being a good parent.
Remember, when it comes to your body, your baby and your health, YOU are in control. Preparation and the right support can make all the difference.