Black women experience several serious health conditions disproportionately to other demographics. Preeclampsia, hemorrhage, preterm delivery, fibroids, small gestational age, and obesity are just a few. According to 2019 CDC report these disparities are persistent and haven’t changed significantly since 2007. There’s a lot of speculation about why we experience these conditions more than other demographics of people.
With conditions such as hemorrhaging and preeclampsia, studies have shown their devastating impact can be linked to delayed diagnosis. There is a pervasive pattern resulting from disbelief and dismissiveness when it comes to black people expressing their symptoms and how they are feeling. If these conditions were caught early on and treated properly, the numbers of poor outcomes and maternal death would decrease.
Another common link to several of these conditions are related to nutrition and diet. Take for instance fibroids. A recent 2021 study shows a link between dietary habits and myoma( fibroid) development risk. Low consumption of fruits, vegetables and vitamin D, as well as low quality foods all contribute to the development of fibroids. Although not fully understood, there has also been a link to elevated estrogen and the development of fibroids.
It is well-known that processed foods contain high levels of sodium to help keep them preserved and to maintain a longer shelf life. All of these nutritive factors are key indicators in poor health and pregnancy outcomes. Pre-eclampsia is one of those poor outcomes. If you’ve been diagnosed with preeclampsia it’s important to know what you may be facing.
Preterm birth, fetal growth restriction, cardiovascular disease, and the abruption of your placenta are all complications of preeclampsia.
Most of the complications are pretty severe and it is encouraged to focus on avoiding preeclampsia as much as possible through healthy diet and exercise choices. If you have a family history of preeclampsia, it will be very important for you to stay in constant communication with your provider to consistently monitor you throughout your pregnancy.
During pregnancy, fibroids can cause severe discomfort. Depending on their location, they may impact whether one receives a c-section, goes into premature labor, and the position of the baby during birth.
Consuming vegetables high in lycopene such as
• fresh tomatoes
• pink grapefruit
• red peppers
• red cabbage
can decrease size and incidence of uterine myoma.
When you consider the quality of food that most black people have access to you will quickly see the connection to these high-risk pregnancy conditions. Black folks have a 15 to 20 fold higher occurrence of severe vitamin D deficiency. This in and of itself can contribute to many health related problems that come from not having sufficient vitamin D.
Symptoms to look out for.
If you are experiencing severe headaches, swelling, changes in vision, nausea, or sudden weight gain, you will want to ask your provider to test your urine for excess protein.
Having a history of excessive menstrual bleeding, a cycle lasting more than 7 days, frequent urination( pre-pregnancy) or feeling of bulginess in the pelvic region you should speak with your provider about getting an ultrasound to confirm if you have fibroids and what size.
After birth there is a certain amount of blood loss expected once the placenta detaches. Any gushing and excessive blood loss is a red flag and your healthcare team should be alerted immediately. If you are feeling faint with a rapid heart beat, that could also be an indication that you have low blood pressure and you’ll need to be checked.
If you begin experiencing regular contractions, abdominal cramping, or if your water breaks before your 37th week, you are likely experiencing preterm labor.
Concerned about what you’re experiencing during your pregnancy? Talk to your provider.
If you feel your concerns are not being heard, ask that your concerns and symptoms be documented in your chart. If you feel unsafe or dismissed at any point during your pregnancy, you have a right to switch providers.
There is no symptom too small to mention!
Be clear and firm about communicating your needs and experiences, and remember that your main priority is you and your family’s safety. Having the support of a doula during your pregnancy can also provide you with a much-needed sounding board as questions arise.
Are you seeking additional support and advocacy during your pregnancy? Contact me for virtual pregnancy coaching where we can discuss a specific action plan for YOUR pregnancy. Walk away CONFIDENT, CLEAR and PREPARED for your upcoming birth experience.
In Gratitude, Jacquelyn C.