Black women die in childbirth three to four times more often than white women, and Black infants die at twice the rate of white infants. The narrative says it’s because Black women are poor or don’t go to the doctor. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Increases in deaths for Black mothers and infants started when slavery was outlawed and white men became interested in reproductive outcomes of Black women to line their pockets. More Black births meant more white money. There’s another factor, too.
Until Reconstruction, older Black women known as Grand Midwives played a major part in childbirth. Grand Midwives can be traced to West Africa where childbirth was a spiritual experience. Delivery usually happened at home with the woman surrounded by other women, including Grand Midwives. Why did this change?
Healthcare became more professionalized - and expensive - and caring, affordable midwives were gradually excluded from reproductive healthcare. Racism against Black pregnant women evolved alongside medical practices, and now we see the consequences. So what can we do?
We can look into alternative reproductive care for our own families. We can seek training to become midwives. We can enter the medical field, and we can insist doctors listen to our symptoms.
It starts, however, with knowing our history, because then we can fight back against the false narratives that put our lives in danger!