Entering the world of motherhood can be a scary, albeit exciting, quest. Advocacy lessons helped me survive torrential waters.
Although Black Maternal Health Week is over, let’s continue the discussion on how to achieve health equity for Black moms and babies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related issues than White women due to racial disparities. Undoubtedly, there is a Black maternal health crisis in America.
I can’t help but reflect on my own pregnancy experience. I followed every rule, from seeking early prenatal care to reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Yet, I still couldn’t escape the inevitable feeling of vulnerability because I am a Black woman.
In 2021, I attended my first prenatal visit at 6 weeks without my partner because of COVID restrictions. I quickly realized that I would be attending most medical appointments alone. I needed an advocacy strategy.
Here are 6 advocacy lessons I learned during pregnancy:
1. Ask questions, then ask more questions
School taught me that there are no dumb questions. These five words are easily transferrable to seeking health care.
I am not a doctor, nor do I have any medical training. Asking a medical provider to define terminology or what to expect in the labor and delivery room are typical questions that a provider should be able to answer. Before each visit, write down your questions and concerns. After each visit, if you still have questions, email or call your provider.
2. Your pregnancy, your chosen birthing experience
Know your birthing options and develop a birth plan.
There are many birthing options, such as choosing a health care provider and birthing location. Some people prefer midwives, while others prefer obstetricians. Similarly, some people prefer home births, while others choose to deliver at a birthing center or hospital. The choice is yours to make. Develop a birth plan for guidance on how to handle expected and unexpected situations.
3. Knowledge is power
Recommended does not mean required.
Prenatal care checkups can be overwhelming and also underwhelming. These visits can include blood tests, sonograms, vaccines, physicals, and pelvic examinations. Depending on the condition of your health, there may be other treatments or procedures. Take charge of your health. Ask your provider what is recommended, required, and what can be delayed.
Remember to read everything, including footnotes, fine print, and even posters hanging inside the waiting room area. If you are still confused, do your research. Talk to other parents, ask your provider questions, or attend an education class. You are in the driver’s seat and have the capacity to navigate your pregnancy accordingly.
4. Health care provider breakups happen
Think of prenatal care as dating.
You should never settle when it comes to your health and the health of your unborn child. In the beginning, schedule consultations or interview multiple providers. If you do not like a provider, break up with them! If you are uncomfortable, question the competency of a provider, or just prefer to seek care at a place conveniently located near your home, it’s your choice. You can find a new health care provider at any time, for any reason.
5. Follow your intuition
Listen to your body.
During pregnancy, your body is constantly changing; listen to it. If something doesn’t feel or seem right, seek immediate care. If a provider recommends a procedure you are uncomfortable with, seek a second medical opinion. Learn how to contact your provider during business hours, after hours, and the nearest location to seek emergency care.
6. Speak up
Don’t take no for an answer.
If you have a health condition that may impact your pregnancy, speak up. Communicate concerns about pain or religious requests. Learn how to utilize different modes of communication, from calling your provider to sending a message through an online health portal. If your provider will not listen to you, ask for a new provider.
This is a reminder that you are powerful and deserve a safe birthing experience. You are your best advocate. Don’t be afraid to utilize these 6 advocacy lessons to ensure that you have your chosen birthing experience.