The Treatment of Women of Colour in Maternal Healthcare
Many people are not aware of the amount of racism and sexism there is in healthcare, and how this causes racial disparities in maternal and infant healthcare. In Ontario, 1 in 3 mothers has had a traumatic birth experience. It is crucial we address these disparities. Structural racism means that women of colour are treated worse than white women, even if the differences subtle. Kenn Harris from NICHQ, The National Institute for Children's Health Quality explains,“I always say we need to look back before we look forward”. Historically, black women have been more vulnerable to various types of violence in the healthcare system. Women of colour get horrid treatment in maternal healthcare, due to racial stereotypes and aggressions that can take a significant mental and physical toll on women.
The maternal and infant mortality rates are higher in women of colour. These disparities in maternal and infant mortality rates are rooted in racism. Due to structural racism, are not taken as seriously as white women. \ A possible cause isbecause women of colour were not studied as much, resulting in them not receiving optimal care.Women of colour are more likely to have birth risk factors such as a low birth weight or preterm birth, which are some of the leading causes of infant mortality.
Many women of colour have also not been included in consensual clinical trials that would’ve helped to better understand and help women of colour. Researchers have said that they could not include women in some clinical trials because of their “variable hormonal status”.When they were included in studies, years ago, it was in inhumane conditions, with enslaved black women being subject to experimental reproductive surgeries without anesthesia. Even then, this was to benefit white women, not the actual black women who were studied upon. Due to the fact that women of color haven't received adequate research, less is known about them, causing them to not receive optimal care. Today, many women of colour are not included in helpful clinical trials, thus healthcare providers cannot treat women of colour with the proper care that they need.
Serena Williams, a black woman, recently experienced racism in healthcare. After she gave birth to her daughter, Serena felt shortness of breath. Serena told a nurse what she was feeling, and that she was scared that she was having a pulmonary embolism, due to the fact that she was off her daily anticoagulant regimen. When she told the nurse she would need a CT scan and blood thinners, the nurse brushed her concerns aside and thought that her pain medication was confusing her. After begging, she finally got a CT scan, and sure enough, she was correct about her own issues. Due to intense coughing, Serena’s c-section wound opened, and when she returned to surgery, they found that a hematoma had flooded her abdomen. If her nurse had listened to Serena’s claims initially, the clot would have been caught before extra surgical procedures had to be taken. This is just one instance of a woman of colour not being taken seriously that has caused major health issues.
The racial disparities in maternal healthcare and healthcare as a whole must be addressed and resolved. If these disparities continue, the lives of many mothers of colour and infants are being risked daily. More data about health outcomes for mothers of colour must be collected to aid in fixing this issue. Something the average person can do is donate to programs that help mothers in need such as Mothers Matter. Mothers Matter is a program that helps mothers of colour, low-income families, and many indigenous communities across Canada.
The mistreatment of women of colour has gone unnoticed and unchanged for too long. Many people think that racism is not prevalent today, but it is only hidden more. Information must be spread about this issue so that women of color are no longer ignored. Women of colour should not have to face racism when in the hospital, and their treatment is unacceptable. It is imperative that we protect and help mothers of colour, especially in these trying times.
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