What you need to know about Black Maternal Health Week

Equal access to healthcare before, during, and after pregnancy is a right, not a privilege. Unfortunately, this right is too often denied to Black women. Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW) was founded by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance to illuminate inequalities in maternal healthcare in the U.S., and to create a space for Black mothers and Black healthcare workers to share their experiences.

This year, the theme for BMHW is “Building for Liberation: Centering Black Mamas, Black Families and Black Systems of Care.”

What is Black Maternal Health Week?

Black Maternal Health Week happens every year from April 11 to 17. The campaign and activities of BMHW — led by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance — uplift the voices of Black moms in the U.S. and center the efforts of the reproductive and birth justice movements. 

This year marks the fifth annual BMHW. As always, it’s held during National Minority Health Month, a month-long initiative to advance health equity in the U.S. on behalf of all racial and ethnic minorities. 

BMHW is a week of awareness, activism, and community building. It’s a much-needed opportunity to amplify the voices of Black moms and Black healthcare workers as they speak on their experiences with care during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postnatal period. 

Black Maternal Health Week Takes Place every April

Here’s what you should know about the Black maternal health crisis 

Earlier this month, tennis star Serena Williams opened up about her life-threatening birthing experience in a personal essay for Elle. As a top-tier athlete, Williams is probably more in-tune with her body than most other people on the planet. Still, her concerns about blood clots — a condition for which she knew she was at increased risk — went unheard following her delivery via cesarean section (C-section). 

Williams described having to  repeatedly advocate for herself to different medical providers before someone finally listened and gave her the CAT scan she requested. The scan showed blood clots that would have been fatal if left untreated.

In her essay, she shared that “being heard and appropriately treated was the difference between life or death for me.” Unfortunately, our medical establishment denies that same chance to far too many Black and Brown women.

BMHW is a time for all of us to recognize and raise awareness about the crisis of Black maternal mortality and morbidity in our country. Here are just a few facts about the state of reproductive health equity (or lack thereof) in the U.S.:

  • Black women are three times more likely to die from complications during or after pregnancy than white women.
  • Infant mortality rates are more than two times higher for non-Hispanic Black babies than non-Hispanic white babies.
  • Women of color are less likely to receive adequate treatment for pain relief after delivery via C-section than white women.
  • Black mothers are more likely to experience perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, such as postpartum depression, and also less likely to receive clinical help for these concerns.
  • Hospitals in communities with a higher percentage of Black residents are less likely to offer breastfeeding support services.
  • Black women disproportionately lack access to reproductive health care services, including contraception, reproductive cancer screenings, STI screenings, and abortion.

All of the above statistics have one thing in common: they underscore severe gaps in care for Black women. These are the types of issues for whichBMHW serves  to raise awareness and, ultimately, enact sustainable solutions.

How can I show my support for BMHW? 

The most important thing you can do to show your support during Black Maternal Health Week is amplify the voices of Black moms, women, parents, and families. Then, reach out to lawmakers and healthcare decision-makers in your community, asking them to ensure systemic change and equitable care for Black women. 

You can also use the following hashtags to help build awareness within your social media network:

  • #BMHW2022
  • #BlackMamasMatter
  • #BlackMaternalHealthWeek
  • #ReproJustice

At JunoDx, we are advocates for equitable reproductive care throughout the United States and beyond. Let’s do the work and be the change!

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Please note: JunoDx.com and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

September 30, 2022 — Stephanie McClintock