Black women and miscarriage
"You never arrived in my arms, but you will never leave my heart."-Zoe Clark-Coates
Beautiful people, let's go!!
This blog is dedicated to the many women who've silently gone through the loss of a miscarriage...
Within the last few weeks, the topic of miscarriage has been on the social media forefront, largely due to Chrissy Teigen and Meghan Markle's experience with losing their unborn due to miscarriage. I do believe that if these two high-profile celebrity figures didn't reveal their experience, the topic of miscarriage would not be of importance when the fact of the matter is, women, especially black women are experiencing miscarriages at an alarming rate.
I have had the unfortunate experience of having two miscarriages; one moment I have a life growing inside of me then the next, without warning, that life is gone. It is a pain that I cannot describe which gives way to feelings of guilt (what could I have done differently) to inadequacy (what is physically wrong with me) There are those who claim that for the most part, a miscarriage is a mystery; with my second miscarriage, my then OB/GYN told me "this was mother nature's way of saying your body wasn't ready for a baby" I wanted to choke the bitch-WTF??? this is the response I get from a medical professional?? needless to say, I quickly ended that relationship.
Mother nature??? not good enough.
Research has shown that Black women experience all types of pregnancy loss more often than white women. This includes miscarriage as well as stillbirth, preterm birth, and infant death.
The reasons why have baffled scientists for decades. We do understand that Black women have higher rates of the risk factors associated with pregnancy loss, such as diabetes, tobacco use, obesity, and low socioeconomic status. But even studies that control for these variables find higher rates of pregnancy loss among African Americans.
The reasons why Black women are more susceptible to these risk factors is complicated and related to various issues of racism and systemic inequality in healthcare. However pinpointing the exact reasoning behind higher rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, and many other chronic illnesses is not clear cut.
One of the major contributors to the higher rate of infant death is an increased rate of preterm labor in African American women and in premature birth for their babies. Because prematurity and low birth weight are leading causes of death in infants, it’s logical to conclude that more babies born early will ultimately equate to more infants dying from those factors. However, these facts don’t explain why African American women are so much more likely to go into early labor than white women.
One study out of Virginia Commonwealth University identified a small variation in the gene SERPINH1 in Black women. This gene is essential in the production of collagen, which is one of the components of the amniotic sac (bag of waters).
This collagen defect is three times more common in African American women than in white women, which may account for some of the incidents of preterm labor among Black women. Because the gene was only found in 12% of the population studied, however, the collagen defect can’t be the only contributing factor to pregnancy loss in Black women.
Late Pregnancy Loss
Another study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health found African Americans were more than twice as likely to experience late pregnancy loss, including stillbirth.
That study attributed the difference to the higher rates of pregnancy complications like diabetes, high blood pressure, premature rupture of membranes, uterine bleeding, placental abnormalities, and problems with the umbilical cord in labor.
Structural Racism in Healthcare
While our instinct might be to point to socioeconomic factors, several studies have found that the risk of pregnancy loss is the same, even among educated, affluent Black women.
This discovery reveals an uncomfortable truth about structural racism in the healthcare space and how prenatal care is administered differently to white vs. Black mothers. In other words, there is a much higher likelihood that white women will receive more effective medical care and social service assistance than Black women. Black women are also less likely to have access to prenatal education, which can affect how they eat and behave during pregnancy.
Ultimately, it has become broadly accepted that the continuous, low-grade stress caused by racism and inequality, is a key factor contributing to disparities in infant and maternal deaths.
What Can Be Done?
Programs like Life Course aim to tackle the problem holistically, offering everything from job assistance to transportation to prenatal care visits, which have shown some success.
Those programs aim mostly at alleviating the socioeconomic factors that contribute to perinatal mortality, but they can’t completely close the gap until we understand what causes the health disparities, even among women who aren’t economically disadvantaged.
In the meantime, there are things African American women can do in an effort to improve their chances of having a healthy pregnancy. The following are some steps they can take:
Tackle the risk factors you can control
Don’t drink alcohol while you’re pregnant or trying to become pregnant
Practice safe sex with new partners, and get tested for sexually transmitted infections
Be as healthy as possible
Strive for an ideal weight through a healthy diet and active lifestyle
Get regular medical care, and follow your doctor’s instructions about any chronic health problems you have
Get prenatal care
Learn the warning signs of pregnancy loss
Call your physician if you experience any signs of miscarriage, preterm labor, or decreased fetal movement.
Let's keep the dialogue going, join me at the Go Pro Revolutionary Party every Friday 8-10 pm to discuss this and other topics from my blog. YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED! Come with an open mind and heart!
Meeting ID: 87580285536