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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

How Racism Affects Health Outcomes For Pregnant Black Women And Their Babies

Speaker 1: 00:00 For black women who are expecting pregnancy can be filled with the anxiety of knowing you will have to navigate a healthcare system plagued by racism. And that racism affects the quality of medical care, black women and infants receive. According to the most recent data from the California department of public health, black infants are three times more likely to die. And 60% more likely to be born prematurely than white infants. Black mothers are three times more likely to die due to pregnancy or delivery complications than white mothers. Again, this is happening because of racism in healthcare, and we want to talk about it to kick off our hour long, special tomorrow. We want to introduce you to Darren Blount. She is a certified professional midwife who owns birth roots, women's health and maternity center. They've recently partnered with project concern International's healthy start program to help address these disparities. It was her own traumatic experience that led her to where she is today. They're in a welcome. Speaker 2: 01:00 Hi, good morning, everyone. So Speaker 1: 01:02 Many women, particularly black women are having these traumatic birthing experiences. And you had a traumatic birthing experience yourself that sort of connected you to this line of work. Can you tell me about that? Speaker 2: 01:14 Yeah. So when I had my second child who is now about to be 22 years old, and next week I'm in the hospital setting, I felt like I had a lot of birth trauma from that birth. Um, it felt like, um, for all, for lack of a better phrasing, like birth rape, um, and because the doctor that I had, wasn't my primary care doctor that I had been seeing the entire pregnancy. So I had a complete stranger. Um, and when I went in there and my, my water had been broken and I wasn't aware it was like a high trickle and I had a fever. So they said, we're keeping you, we're inducing you. And then the intervention started coming without any explanation of what they were doing, why they were doing it and doing exams on me without really asking permission. And he did manual dilation on my cervix when he was in there without telling me that's what he was going to do. Speaker 2: 02:03 And I asked him to stop and it was really painful and he kept going and held my legs while he was doing it. And it just, I, more and more of that throughout the labor of just like doing things to me without really saying what's happening and why. And, um, and that pretty much put a fire under me of like, if this happened to me, I'm sure this is happening to other people. I was very young at the time and I'm like, I started doing more research and learning about the experience of birth and then how it relates to black women versus white women. Um, and it kinda kinda put this like passion in me to, to create something different and be a part of a solution instead of a problem. Speaker 1: 02:42 Why, why do you think you were treated like that? Yeah, Speaker 2: 02:45 The hospital one because of my youth and then two, because I was black woman and I feel like it was a two-fold thing. So there was this sort of assumption that because I was young and black that I didn't know better. So that they'll just me, what's best for me. And I've seen this kind of attitude pervade throughout the healthcare system. If they make an assumption based on what they think, what culture you're coming from, our race you're coming from ethnic group that you belong to. And as well as like how much you could possibly know based on your age, um, I was pretty well read and I would did a lot of research. And so, you know, I understood a lot of things, but they just didn't seem to want to have those conversations with me and just like, Oh, the doctor will let you know what you need. You know, that's kinda what the nurses would say or they'll tell you what you have to do next. Um, and you know, I didn't appreciate that. And, and so I was like, I would never treat, um, a patient like this if I had, if I was in this type of a field and that it's really demeaning, it's very disrespectful, it's scary, it's traumatic. And, um, and it messes with the progress of the labor and the birth when there's fear involved. Speaker 1: 03:54 Hmm. You know, as you became a midwife, what did you begin to notice about the birthing experience of other black women? Speaker 2: 04:01 I was only seeing similar things as I had experienced in my birth. I noticed that when I was attending a birth of a white woman, that they were more likely to explain all the procedures, I give them options, um, that they were, they were more, um, amenable to letting more people come in the room and support them, um, pre COVID of course, that they gave them more options when it came to what they can choose and, and, and not choose for their babies even. Whereas there was more of this blanket approach coverage of like, this is what we do in the hospital when it was anyone that was not white, Speaker 1: 04:39 You know, and these issues have persisted for a long time. Um, just like the disparities have, why do you think there's no urgency to fix the, Speaker 2: 04:49 When we say like this urgency to fix the problem, it takes us a really long time to change something that has sort of been as a part of our system, kind of woven into the care of our system. And I feel like the United States was sort of, kind of created in this like white system and from a white perspective. And it's, it's an, you know, several hundred years ago and racism and slavery and all that we were, was built. You know, our system was built on that and it's hard to kind of like undo all those foundational building blocks that were put in place of like treat the whites this way, treat everybody else this way. This is how we do care. I mean, everything was segregation. And like, if you don't have money, then you don't get care. And it seems that in the last like 15 years that we're shining this light on this issue of disparities and like that, that it even exists. Speaker 2: 05:43 A lot of people had no idea that these were the numbers and that they seem to be the same in some areas getting worse in some areas like in, particularly in California, our numbers are better than the national, like leading numbers for disparities, but still the, the, the difference is still there three to four times, you know, the rates of white people for, um, our infant health and our maternal health, um, outcomes. And so I think that I'm really excited that we're signing. We're really shining a light. We're seeing it on billboards. We're seeing it on news articles. We're hearing podcasts that everybody's learning that this is an issue. Um, but I think that we just don't know how to break ourselves out of income, out of it. People are starting to pay attention to like, well, what's working. What are these groups asking for so that they can have better outcomes so that they can be seen and be heard and, and survive and live through their childbirth experiences. Speaker 2: 06:39 And, um, and one of the things that we learned about is that, like what, what are women asking for? What are pregnant people asking for that they're asking for culturally competent care by care providers that look like them, they want more holistic approaches. They want options. They want alternatives to what the normal birthing scene may look like Rizzo, and maybe an alternative in the hospital, having a birthing center within a hospital, having care providers like midwives that may be able to take care of them, um, in conjunction with working with doctors, some of them want options for birthing outside of the hospital and outside like freestanding birth center, and some want the option to be able to birth at home and, and doing this on a risking risk by risk, you know, or case by case basis or based on their actual health risks. Speaker 1: 07:25 I've been speaking with Darren, a Blount, a certified professional midwife and owner director of birth roots, women's health and maternity center. She recently partnered with project concern International's healthy start program to help address these disparities. Darren, thank you so much for sharing your story and for the advocacy you do. Thank you. Tomorrow on midday edition, you'll hear about the experiences black women are having here in San Diego, as well as available resources. And what's being done to fix the healthcare system.

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Wednesday, KPBS Midday Edition brings you a special program on Black maternal health with more personal stories from Black mothers, insights into how racism is baked into medical school education and what is being done to address this problem here in San Diego.
KPBS Midday Edition Segments