In America, black babies are THREE times more likely to die before their first birthday than white babies. When I posted this fact on my Instagram page one of my followers asked “Why does color have to come into it?” I immediately became angered upon reading this under my post and, after giving a short response I blocked the individual and moved on with my day (I’m really trying to keep negativity out of my life lol). But now that some time has passed and I’ve had a moment to really sit with the question I thought I’d offer a full response to this young lady and others like her who may be wondering the same thing. When it comes to infant mortality, why does race matter?
When confronted with the truth many non-black people react in the same manner that this young lady did. They immediately disregard the facts being presented and instead commit themselves to convincing people that race isn’t the issue. Perhaps the number didn’t matter to her. Perhaps she didn’t believe that the information was accurate. Although I felt her comment was insensitive, I also understood her point; babies die regardless of color. What I didn’t understand, however, was how I offended her by speaking the truth about the black infant mortality rate. Color was the exact point that I was trying to make about the difference in the infant mortality rate number. A black child being born to a black mother shouldn’t increase the risk of mortality for either the child or the mother but it does! I don’t want color to be a factor, but it is. The fact is black babies die more and it isn’t a coincidence. It’s a system that constantly fails us time and time again. The same American system that is responsible for black women being three to four times more likely to experience a pregnancy-related death than white women. I wanted to shed light on a serious issue for the black community.
Dismissing the statistics about infant mortality in the black community is detrimental to our growth and I feel our issues are not understood or expressed enough. It isn’t that we’re unable to carry children or that we aren’t educated on how to raise them. We are among the most educated groups in America. Most of us seek prenatal care and follow up with the doctor as we should. Contrary to what many may believe, income is not a significant factor in the rate of black infant deaths. The leading cause of infant death for black babies is extreme prematurity. So if we are going to the doctor and seeking prenatal care as we should why are black babies born prematurely? This is a question I want you all to think about while also understanding that there are layers to this fact and that color is the bottom line.
We need patient-centered care
Medical professionals who don’t look like us tend to not understand us which can lead to them dismissing our symptoms or issues that we put forward. I have heard so many stories from black women who have had horrible experiences with their newborns because their doctor dismissed their early signs and symptoms of problems during their pregnancy. Black women are too often discriminated against in the healthcare field. If this is ever your case you should know and understand that you do not work for your doctor but your doctor does work for you! Fire them and find yourself a new doctor who will be respectful of your concerns and wishes. Be your own advocate and always do what’s best for you and your baby.
Life is harder
Chronic stress is physically unhealthy for anyone but especially for a pregnant woman. The stress and anxiety that black women experience on a daily basis can come from work, exposure to racism, and personal life issues. Exposure to stress while pregnant is known to have an affect on our health and the health of our babies leading to problems including low birth weight, earlier delivery, and postpartum depression. Who knew being black in America was so hard (sarcasm lol)? It’s hard for us to escape the stressors of life when it’s coming at us from every angle. The constant acts of racism displayed all over the media become traumatic and emotionally overwhelming. Our bodies age faster than white women due to that exposure to chronic stress that is linked to socioeconomic disadvantage and discrimination. Yeah, we have a lot on our plates.
The harsh realities we face as black women are not empathized by our counterparts. We deserve culturally competent medical professionals who can provide us with the care we need. Let’s keep talking about this issue and bringing race to the forefront until the systematic injustices are eliminated. Help bring awareness to infant mortality for black babies by sharing your story. You are not alone. Our stories speak to the unique circumstances of experiencing pregnancy as a black woman and deserve to be heard.