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    What Can We Do?

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | November 1st, 2020

    What Can We Do?

    My husband recently shared an article from the New York Times titled Protecting Your Birth: A Guide for Black Mothers. Little did I know that the next day I would be reading a news article about Dr. Chaniece Wallace. She was a 30 year old black pediatric chief resident who lost her life four days after giving birth to a baby girl. Black women are at least 2.5 times as likely to die in childbirth than white women, with one estimate showing rates among college-educated Black women are 5.2 times that of white women. Dr. Wallace developed preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy) and had to have a cesarean section. Most of the time, death related to preeclampsia is preventable. We have to do something. Protecting Your Birth: A Guide for Black Mothers is a great resource. It provides advice for pregnant black women and health care providers.

    In this article, Erica Chidi and Dr. Erica Cahill describe four steps:

     Step 1: Acknowledge Race and Racism In the Room – When black women are dying more than any other ethnic group in the United States, it cannot be ignored. Hopefully, you will be comfortable discussing this issue with your provider. The guide provides you with information on how to have this conversation.

    Step 2: Create a Care Plan Anticipating That Racism May Impact Pregnancy – There are conditions that are common in black women – hypertension, preeclampsia, preterm delivery. It is important to understand the warning signs.  Do not be afraid to ask questions. Learn what to do if you are not feeling well.

    Step 3: Identify How Racism May Impact Labor – Non-Hispanic Black women have a higher rate of primary (first-time) cesarean delivery. Taking a birthing class especially for first time mothers may be helpful. Having a support person like a doula may be beneficial.

    Step 4: Identify How Racism May Impact Postpartum – Up to 45 percent of maternal deaths happen in the weeks after the delivery. If you are considered high risk during your pregnancy, you should see your health care provider at least within 10 days of your delivery. Waiting 6 weeks, can be too late. Do not be afraid to reach out to your provider if you have any concerns.

    Please take your time to read the guide whether or not you are planning to become pregnant. You may be able to apply some of the information to other medical encounters. Share the information with your health care provider that takes care of a diverse group of women. Share the information with your inner circle. We all have to work together to make sure that another woman does not die during childbirth.

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    The book discusses common gynecological and women’s health issues in a series of witty and entertaining letters. These letters, all educational, offer suggestions on what approaches to take in tackling the medical problems that typically bring women to an ob/gynecologist. The letters are spiced with art, a poem and quotes. Although its emphasis is on gynecology and women’s health, it touches on some other medical issues that make women visit their doctors.

    The second half of the book briefly discusses the most common gynecological conditions and also provides an overview of sexually transmitted infections. A list of annotated websites dealing with the different topics in the book is provided for the reader who wants to pursue each subject in depth.




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