Chioma Uwagwu reports:
American women die in childbirth at a higher rate than in any other developed nation, according to the American Diabetes Association. Within the United States, non-Hispanic Black women are three times more likely to die from complications in childbirth than white women.
In light of these painful disparities, many women of color are getting involved in birth work.
“A lot of us as birthing parents are looking for solutions to just save our lives,” said maternal health advocate Brittany Wright. “How do we survive the experience of giving birth and live to tell about it? How do we have not just an experience that we can survive from, [but] that we feel empowered and supported in?”
Wright advocates for public policies that impact mothers, particularly black mothers. She was compelled to enter birth work after her own experience in 2018.
“I knew something was wrong,” Wright recalled, “and they kept telling me ‘oh it’s just painful contractions, you’re a first time mom, you’re just not used to it.’ And in the 20th hour of labor they finally started to believe me.”
The doctor credited for much of modern gynecology – James Marlon Sims – experimented on enslaved women without anesthesia. Wright says given the racist roots of gynecology, it’s not an accident that present-day systems under-serve communities of color.
“So when we look at all of the ways in which black bodies have been exploited – what does it look like to do the exact opposite of that? To uplift black bodies and to center them and to provide them with the care that we have historically been denied?” asked Wright.
Wright is in the process of opening a holistic birthing center that integrates ancient cultural practices into the birthing experience.
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