Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team

In the United States, women’s healthcare and reproductive rights continues to be a point of contention in national politics. Within women’s healthcare, there are various distinct issues that people keep fighting for, one of which is the systemic racism faced by marginalized communities of color, particularly the Black community.

In an interview with Women’s Health, Dr. Sophia Yen, the CEO and co-founder of Pandia Health, breaks down maternal mortality rates among the Black population and explains how we can begin to combat these statistics and fight for equitable healthcare across the board.

Women’s Health is a lifestyle magazine written for women, primarily by women. It features articles and stories about health, fitness, nutrition, trends, and beauty news, and the magazine is famous worldwide for its support and aid in women’s rights movements.

Pandia Health supports women in a similar way: by providing accessible and affordable birth control delivery for anyone who needs it, Pandia Health is working towards equal access to healthcare for all women, regardless of race or socioeconomic status. 

Black Women and Mortality Rates

Black women, along with Native American and Alaskan Native women, are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women – and this disparity continues to increase with age. For women over the age of 30, the gap is up to four to five times greater compared to their white counterparts. 

Dr. Yen acknowledges that the reasons for higher mortality rates among Black women are unknown, saying, “more research needs to be done, and that requires time and money to fund the research.” She does cite that the disparity in mortality rates is likely linked to lack of access to care, as well as a history of racism in healthcare that results in Black women’s concerns being dismissed. 

In a country where Black women face much existing systemic oppression in healthcare, it is imperative for these individuals to advocate for themselves – along with the support of allies outside of the community. For instance, Dr. Yen recommends that as soon as you know you are pregnant, make an appointment with an OB/GYN.

It is also smart to ask for a second opinion if you are ever unsure of the care you are receiving and to do everything you can to maintain the attention of your healthcare staff. Dr. Yen notes that it is essential for all of us to fight for universal healthcare and ensure that healthcare covers both pre- and post-natal care. 

How do we do this, you may ask? A key place to start is by voting at every level of elections. Vote for public officials who support healthcare measures affecting reproductive rights! It’s also wise to ask your elected officials where they stand on funding research in disparities in maternal mortality by race; these disparities exist, and doing research is an essential strategy to start eliminating them.

Finally, Dr. Yen suggests that before you begin trying to get pregnant, take care of your own health. In particular, Black women have a significantly higher rate of hypertension, diabetes, and obesity than their white counterparts. Healthy women are much more likely to experience fewer complications post-pregnancy than unhealthy women, and preventative care is the best way to avoid the high mortality rates that continue to plague the Black maternal population.

Lack of access to prenatal care, along with risk factors such as those listed above, puts an individual at a higher risk of maternal mortality. Therefore, it is crucial to take care of these matters to ensure you have the most positive outcome when going through a pregnancy. 

How to Choose an OB/GYN

When choosing an obstetrician-gynecologist (OB/GYN), it’s ideal to pick someone who understands your individual concerns. Dr. Yen recommends checking reviews of doctors online – almost all hospitals and clinics have this information available and it’s easy to read about other people’s experiences with certain doctors before you go in. 

At Pandia Health, we are proud to be fully transparent about our doctors and their expertise. It’s also a great idea to talk to friends and people in your community about their experiences. If your friends have had positive outcomes, you can get a referral from one of them, or talk to your general physician about who might be the best choice for you. 

Symptoms to Pay Attention to While Pregnant

Among all women, heart disease and stroke are the greatest causes of death surrounding pregnancy. During delivery, severe bleeding becomes the most common cause of death; following a pregnancy, cardiomyopathy, a disease in which the heart has trouble pumping blood to the body, is the number one cause of death for up to a year after delivery for all women. 

However, among Black women, preeclampsia and eclampsia are the leading underlying causes of death during a pregnancy. It’s crucial to know the signs and symptoms of all of these conditions, and be in constant communication with your OB/GYN about everything you are feeling over the course of your pregnancy. If you ever are experiencing severe headaches, blurred or changed vision, severe pain in your abdomen, or shortness of breath, contact your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately. 

Once you see a doctor, they are also able to do more thorough tests to assess your liver and kidney function during your pregnancy. Excess protein in your urine and decreased cell counts in your blood are signs of organ malfunction, and it’s necessary to keep in touch with your doctors about these functions to ensure everything goes smoothly. 

What Questions Should I Ask When Choosing a Care Provider?

Dr. Yen chose her own OB/GYN based on her friends’ recommendations and online reviews. It is critical, she adds, to read both the good and bad online reviews as they are often biased towards negative opinions. Dr. Yen also spoke with medical residents for their opinion, and checked the medical schools and residencies of each OB/GYN for extra credibility. Here are her suggested questions for choosing the best OB/GYN: 

  1. What do you think are the causes of maternal mortality disparity?
  2. Is your hospital/group working on decreasing maternal mortality? If so, what are they doing to decrease this disparity and risk?

Throughout this process, Dr. Yen, and the whole team at Pandia Health, strongly urge women to advocate for themselves and listen to their body’s needs. If anything ever feels off, the best thing you can do is talk to your doctor and find a solution. Doctors are here to help – and at Pandia Health, the expert doctors put your needs first to ensure you receive the best care possible. 

If you are interested in signing up with Pandia Health, you can do so here to receive FREE birth control delivery, automatic refills, and useful swag items in each monthly package. We take care of the entire process from writing a prescription to delivering it to your door – let us take on the hassle and take the burden off your plate so you can experience #PandiaPeaceofMind! 

Disclaimer: The above information is for general informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor/primary care provider before starting or changing treatment.