While many women will tell you that being pregnant is stressful, being a black and pregnant woman during a pandemic is incredibly stressful and makes black birth more complicated and almost life-threatening. COVID-19 disproportionately affects people of color and may affect maternal mortality rates, especially for Black women. While racism has contributed to the rise in Black maternal deaths, the pandemic could aggravate an already troubling issue. The CDC data shows racial disparities that Black women are more likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report stating, Hispanic and Black pregnant women are unfairly affected by the Coronavirus infection during pregnancy. With the coronavirus rates disproportionately impacting the Black community, the impacts of the virus on pregnancy continue to affect Black soon-to-be-mothers. Pregnant women from these groups have a higher rate of underlying conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure, which leads to a higher risk of complications from COVID-19 infection. Researchers conclude this disparity is rooted in health care. This results in long-standing social inequities, such as lack of safe housing and healthy food, and inferior care at the hospitals where Black women give birth. Anytime implicit bias exists, it always negatively affects the care that black women receive. Hospitals and health care providers dismiss the problems most Black women complain about during their pregnancies and labor. Tennis great Serena Williams’ recently talked of her complications and near-death postpartum experience. It was a sad reminder that being rich and famous offers no protection from being dismissed or mistreated during one of the most susceptible moments of a Black woman’s life.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed health care inequities to women regardless of income or education. These injustices have pushed more black women to look at home birth as a way to not only avoid coronavirus but also to ensure security that the health system does not provide. The same health care system has contributed to African American women becoming three to four times more likely to die from childbirth than white women. For Black women, the pandemic could still affect their prenatal care. Some women must have their blood pressure monitored and take their temperatures during their Virtual prenatal appointments. The lack of prenatal care shows the disparities in the level of care minorities receive and is a primary reason why some physicians worry that patients will fall through the cracks between virtual visits. However, all is not lost as telemedicine’s popularity has increased during the pandemic; prenatal care has shown positive outcomes. For many women, prenatal care is the care they cannot afford or do not have access to.
To reduce severe COVID-19–associated disease, pregnant women should be aware of their potential risk for severe COVID-19 illness. Still, physicians know that the pandemic has made birth and recovery a scarier, lonelier place for so many families, especially during Coronavirus restrictions. Hospitals will allow pregnant women to have their doula or partner present during birth via video or phone calls, easing many black women’s anxiety or fears significantly.
Shera Strange is a Writer, Health Coach & Fitness Expert. Find her on social media at FB: Strange Fitness Inc, LinkedIn: Shera Strange or Twitter: Misssstrangefitness.