Racial And Ethnic Disparities in Maternal Health: What We Can Do To Improve A Public Health Crisis


Racial And Ethnic Disparities in Maternal Health: What We Can Do To Improve A Public Health Crisis

Life has been going really well lately. It seems like everything is finally falling into place. Finally, the relationship with your partner is getting serious. In fact, talk of marriage and kids in the future is occurring more often.

As you start to think about what this really means, you realize that it has also been over two years since your last annual exam with the obstetrician/gynecologist. You’re excited to meet with your physician and update them about what has been going on in your life, but you’re also nervous. As much as you want to have children in the future, you are also scared. As a minority, what will your experience be, and how can you ensure the best possible outcome?

Women of color are at a much higher risk of death during childbirth.

It’s an unacceptable reality that black women are dying in childbirth at a rate 3-4 times higher than other groups of women. Elevated risks of maternal death have also been reported for Native American women and some Asian and Hispanic population subgroups. As alarming as these statistics are, we at VPFW are working hard daily to break down barriers and provide the best care possible for women of color. In addition, I have been working independently with Mocha OB, a group of over 600 female OB/GYNs, family practice physicians, and cardiologists of color to turn the tide toward well-being.

4 Things you can do to improve your maternal and reproductive health

While we’re fighting to curtail the risk factors for women of color, it is also important that you become an advocate for your own health.  As a team, we can work together to reduce racial and ethnic disparities and improve your maternal health outlook. Here are 4 ways you can contribute to your own reproductive well-being.

1.     Schedule your annual exam and stay up to date on appointments

Early access to healthcare in order to optimize health prior to pregnancy is critical. Come prepared to update your medical and surgical history and family history and to discuss any changes that have occurred since your last visit.  If you are transferring care to us, have your records sent.

We will make sure you are up to date with any pertinent screenings and testing available and make recommendations for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

2.     Address existing conditions

If you are considering pregnancy, it is important to diagnose and treat conditions such as hypertension, asthma, diabetes, autoimmune disease, and obesity before you conceive. It is also important to address any concerns about infertility.

If you are not ready for pregnancy, it is equally important to explore and consider your contraceptive options.

3.     Prepare to have a conversation with your OB/GYN

We want to talk with you, not at you. Our goal is to create an environment for shared decision-making.  We strive to practice evidence-based medicine and will share the relevant risks and benefits of treatment options. We’ll also review treatment alternatives with you.

At the same time, you should feel comfortable sharing any personal information that might impact your decisions regarding treatment so that we can explore any concerns and come up with the right plan of care for YOU.

Effective communication is a cornerstone to quality care and patient safety. If there is a language barrier, please let us know. We have translators available, and we also have use of a language line if needed.

4. Ask questions and advocate for yourself

Before your appointment, write down any questions you may have. Then, when you see your provider, you can address those questions, discuss concerns, share your fears, and express your desires. If it would help, feel free to bring along a family member or friend to be your second set of ears. Once you leave, also use the decision aids we provide (pamphlets, websites, or brochures) and continue the conversation. We also encourage you to engage and work with doulas, churches, community-based social services, and civic organizations that you trust.

We are committed to improving the maternal and reproductive health of women of color

After you leave your appointment, we hope you feel empowered and supported. Moving forward, VPFW pledges to improve upon the factors of racial health disparities that are modifiable. We will continue increasing quality and safety and addressing implicit bias. We will work with you to better your reproductive health and the health of all VPFW patients of color. We are excited to partner with you as you move into the next chapter of your unique book of life.

VPFW offices are open for OB and non-routine visits, and we are taking new patients. We are also offering virtual telehealth visits. PLEASE CHECK OUR COVID-19 UPDATES >