By Dr. Nicole Sparks, M.D.
Approximately 700 women die each year due to pregnancy related deaths in the U.S. The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed nations. Premature Black death has become acceptable. And though we are familiar with the statistics surrounding Black women the statistics have yet to improve. Black women are 3-4x more likely to experience a pregnancy related death than white women. After the age of 30, that statistic increases significantly and the disparity spans socioeconomic and education levels. With the statistics that have been brought to light about the increased pregnancy mortality rate among Black women, ways to improve your pregnancy outcomes are very important. It is necessary to arm yourself with the appropriate tools to properly advocate for your pregnancy. Let's discuss five ways pregnant women can advocate for themselves during their pregnancies. Choose your doctor wisely. This is the most important step. Your life and the life of your baby may very well depend on the provider you choose. In an era where Black women are often dismissed or silenced, it is important to take the time to choose a doctor who is compassionate and who will listen. Your physician not only has your life in their hands but also the life of your unborn baby. Whether you use a referral from a friend or whether you have read amazing reviews please make the choice seriously. Ask Questions It has happened to all of us. We get to the doctor's office and we forget everything we wanted to ask. Prepare your questions prior to your visit and write them down in your phone so you can have them answered in a timely manner at your appointment. It is important to be informed and to take charge of your health. Make sure you are with a physician who will take the time to answer questions about your pregnancy and your health. Have a Doula or a support person There are studies that show that having a support person during your care and labor can improve outcomes. A doula can help with emotional support, can help explain some of the labor processes, help with pain and can speak up for you when needed. They are an additional resource who can advocate on your behalf. Educate yourself If your provider presents a plan, make sure you ask for information about the specific plan so you can read up on it. Ask why a certain procedure needs to be done. Are there any alternatives? What are all of your options? Speak up If something doesn't seem right to you, or you are worried about your care then please say something. Voice your concerns and let your voice be heard. Now is not the time to be silent when your health and the health of your baby is at stake. And remember, if your provider doesn't listen to you or take your concerns seriously, please find a new provider.
Dr. Nicole Sparks is an Obstetrician Gynecologist who practices in the North Atlanta area. She loves women's health and believes that every woman should be their own best advocate. Dr. Sparks began her blog in 2016 where she frequently discusses various health and wellness topics and well as balancing motherhood and her journey into medicine. Her goal is to inspire, especially minority women to enter the field of medicine and to advocate for their own wellness even when no one else will. www.nicolealiciamd.com