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Tips for Minority Women in Pregnancy

Many minority women are not familiar with all the problems associated with childbirth and the how they can do basic things to prevent them from happening. Whether this is the fault of the public health community, or your own inexperience it is a problem that must be resolved during childbirth.  The highest determinant for most pregnancy complications includes women’s inability to receive adequate prenatal care.  The objective of prenatal care is to monitor your health and the health of your delicate baby.  Many times health care providers are unaware of the social aspects of gaining access to prenatal care and the issues surrounding and actually receiving good care once a woman is in the health care setting.  This again, reflects the medical community’s inability to reach the populations that need special attention.

In anticipation of the consequences of social inequalities and their negative affects on minority health, I have three suggestions that will drastically improve your chances of receiving excellent maternal care. 

• First, make sure you do whatever it takes to have access to a GOOD doctor as SOON as you find out that you are pregnant.  At this visit it is very important to make a pest of yourself by asking hundreds of questions.  The questions can be and SHOULD be as simple and/or complicated as you wish.  The idea of this question-answer marathon is for you to access how eager your doctor is about assisting you during your pregnancy and to actually learn about what you can do to ensure good health for you and your baby.  It is very important and not an absurd request to demand that your doctor be trained on minority health issues.  Contact your local hospital to ask if doctors and other medical staff have been trained on minority health issues, especially if you are a black woman.  Black women have higher maternal mortality and are at higher risk for a premature birth than any other ethnic minority group.  When choosing a doctor, and remember you do not have to stay with the same doctor the entire way through if he or she is not supportive, make sure this doctor is familiar with minority health problems.  Ask him to discuss what he knows about high risks for black women in this country.  Ask him to explain what he is doing to prevent complications from occurring before 15 weeks of gestation.  Ask him to discuss why he thinks some health disparities exist between minority women and white women and demand that he explain what he will personally do to ensure that you will receive quality prenatal care. 

• Second, talk to whomever you feel is closest to you and discuss with them how you can create a very supportive environment for yourself during the prenatal and post-partum period.  This person can be a friend, your partner, a relative, or even a social worker or public health professional.  The idea of this discussion should be to identify who or what factors interfere with your ability to have a successful pregnancy, physically and emotionally. 

• And finally, become educated through many free resources out there for pregnant women.  The local health department should have information that will help you become familiar with things that your doctor mentioned or things he did not mention.  For example, many public health departments have programs that will allow a nurse, social worker, and nutritionist to come visit you in your home during your pregnancy and afterwards in order to ensure that you have access to everything you need to have a successful birth.  Also, other community centers, health clinics, and local community organizations can provide you with information directly related to your motherhood, or can find other resources for you.  Having a detailed question-answer session with your doctor, discussing your pregnancy needs with a friend, and becoming educated on maternal and infant health does really help eliminate some social and health inequalities because all of this creates a foundation of support that will be there when other potential complications arise.  It may take more work, but also requesting the same group of nurses and the same doctor throughout the entire pregnancy is very important.  This is why, again, it is very imperative to become educated on what constitutes quality maternal care and create a support group of family members and friends who can be there to supervise medical procedures having some knowledge themselves.

These three tips of having good early access to healthcare, talking with your providers, and educating yourself about maternal health issues are very useful for preventing adverse pregnancy outcomes.  Some tips are easier to follow than others, but definitely spend time learning more about these issues.  Having a healthy baby is as always the desired outcome and as a woman of color it is up to you to bridge a gap between that goal and the unique challenges you may face.
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