“Women have been having babies for a long time, so you don’t need to worry,” is what my obstetrician said to me when I went it for my first appointment. I was probably asking a lot of questions and seemed more concerned than his average patient or maybe it was because I was going to be a first-time mom. His comment has stayed with me, though, because I realized that I could be comforted by such a statement because I was having a baby in one of the best hospitals in the United States.
According to the World Health Organization, nearly 830 women die every day due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth. It is the second leading cause of death, if you live in a developing country. Most of these maternal deaths can be prevented.
An even more shocking statistic, though, is that in the United States, despite being a developed nation, the maternal mortality rate doubled in the last 20 years. The Maternal Health Task Force also found that women of color are more at risk because of discrimination in the healthcare system and also more likely to receive poorer quality of care.
My pregnancy went relatively smoothly. I did have gestational diabetes, but was able to get access to a nutritionist and an endocrinologist to help manage it. Towards the end of my pregnancy, I was monitored carefully and went in for weekly stress tests. In many cases, especially for women of color, access like that is rare or something that is an unknown when considering their maternal health.
I was lucky to have the best obstetricians, specialists and hospitals at my disposal throughout my entire pregnancy, while giving birth and after. For many women of color, this may not be their story. But what can we do to change that?
We can change that by getting involved in organizations like Every Mother Counts – a nonprofit that is dedicated to making childbirth and pregnancy safe for every mother. Another impactful way that we can bring more awareness to maternal health is by sharing our stories. Whether it is through a blog post, a birth story slam, social media or sharing in-person with your friends – telling the story of your experience helps to bring about that awareness. So tell your story – give your maternal health journey a voice.
This blog post also appeared in the newsletter & blog post of Asian Women for Health.