I Was 31 Weeks Pregnant, in Pain, and Nobody Cared: On Being Black And Pregnant In America

 America’s maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the developed world, and they are especially high among Black mothers, who die from complications related to pregnancy at roughly two to three times the rate of white, Hispanic, Asian American, and Pacific Islander women — regardless of their income or education levels.-President Joe Biden

I’m going to preface this post by getting to the good part of this story early: I delivered my baby safely, and he is now 3 years old:

IMG 3786

But we didn’t get here easily. Three years ago, when I was in  the final stage of my pregnancy, I experienced first-hand, what countless black women in this country have have had to endure while being pregnant. In fact, one of the reasons I’ve chosen not to have additional children is due to this experience and the fact that if I were to get pregnant again, I do not know if I would make it out alive. This would not be because I’ve had any major complications, but because simply put: I do not trust the American healthcare system to do right by me or my would-be child. 

This week marks the  fourth annual national Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW) campaign, founded and led by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance. To commemorate this occasion, I’m sharing with you the details of my own experience when I was 31 weeks pregnant and in pain. I’ve wanted to share this story for some time, but I’ve held onto it because I didn’t know if it mattered. After all, I am alive and healthy and so is my child. However, I do believe there is value in sharing these stories because if we don’t, no one would believe that this is happening to black women and their unborn children in the year 2021. 

Rather than attempt to remember all of the particulars of my experience, below you will find screenshots of a letter I sent to the  Patient Services department at Beth Israel Medical Center in Boston Massachusetts in June of 2019. Here it is:

black maternal health
black maternal health

healthcare for black women

risk factors for pregnant black women
infant mortality rate for black women

health risks for pregnant black women‘ 

Thankfully, my story ends well. I heard from the Patient advocacy department almost immediately, switched to a Middle Eastern doctor, received proper care and guidance,  and the rest is history.  I was one of the lucky ones, but I share this story for those who were not so lucky. The last few years have been hard. We’ve lost loves ones and we are still in the midst of a very scary pandemic. Now, more than ever, we’ve become acutely aware of how short and precious our lives are. Many of us have wanted and hoped and prayed for our babies, so to either lose them, or our very own lives when it doesn’t have to happen is wrong. It will always be wrong.

Black women are not the only women losing their own lives or the lives of their babies unnecessarily. The infant mortality rate in this country is appalling for a variety of reasons. We are a developed nation, so this should be a non-issue. Still, the numbers don’t lie. Black women are at a higher risk and it needs to end. 

Share your stories below!

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  1. Lisa, wow an experience. Thanks very much for reliving and sharing a extremely bad example of maternity care. So sad!

  2. As a first time mom at 38 weeks I had some odd pains and at my OB appointment I told my nurse and doctor. I was then situated for a no stress test. The doctor came in and asked me questions about fetal movement which I told her had decreased and along with the pain I was a little nervous and had no idea what was normal. She did a sono and my baby was breathing and had a heart beat. I asked again about movement bc she didn’t move at all during no stress test and she said it was probably bc I was close to delivery and I could go to L &d if I felt like it. My daughter was stillborn at 38.5 weeks.

  3. Thank you for sharing your story, so sorry you had to go through this but others must know. My daughter went through 3 preagnancy’s with the same horrible treatment, thank goodness her and her babies are fine. She has other health concerns now and is being treated horrific by doctors, as if her symptoms and pains are made up and or pychiatric because we must be mental when they won’t or can’t figure your problems out. Sad to say they dont care about us. Not all but most dont seem to.

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