Written by: Selina R. Johnson
Professional Expertise: Dr. Marcia Mierez
In the past several years the topic of disparities in pregnancy has received more publicity due to the high-profile women who have been affected by it. Beyonce Knowles-Carter and Serena Williams are amongst celebrities who have been vocal about their experience that was almost fatal. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “Approximately 700 women die in the United States each year as a result of pregnancy or its complications, and significant racial/ethnic disparities in pregnancy-related mortality exist.” According to an article published by J Clin Med, “Black women were found to be more likely than white women to suffer from pregnancy included hypertension, chronic hypertension, preterm labor, antepartum and postpartum hemorrhage and peripartum infections, while Hispanic women were found to be at greater risk than white women for gestational diabetes, peripartum infections and postpartum hemorrhage.”
How do we decrease the percentage of disparities in pregnancies? We can do that by having resources in place that educate minority women about illness that can occur during their pregnancy that may not occur for white women. We should have more conversations, tools, visuals, campaigns, seminars and resources that are readily available to educate the providers as well as the community. This is a team effort that will not be successful unless everyone is willing to be vocal, open to understanding, educating and finding the best way to ensure mom and child/children are safe.
We asked Dr. Marcia Mierez for her feedback on this topic. Dr. Mierez has been educating the community and those around her about not only the disparities in pregnancies but the struggles of infertility. “Unfortunately, black women are more likely to die than their white counterparts during pregnancy and post-partum periods. What they have identified also is that in terms of the physicians’ black physicians out perform their white counterparts when it comes to treatment or modality used to try to protect and preserve life in terms of women in color as opposed to their white counterparts. While that is not true across the board, it speaks to the fact that there is a gap and disparity in terms of the mindset, the thought process surrounding black women and how they experience things like pain. Unfortunately, even in this day and age we still don’t all comprehend the fact that we are all humans. We all think the same, feel the same, and bleed the same and if we are not paid attention to or our health care needs are not met, we could all die.”
When asked about some ways that physicians can ensure they don’t overlook the signs or symptoms with all their patients Dr. Mierez had this to say, “Listen to your patients.” “Be very attentive to your patients’ needs when they are telling you something is wrong, investigate it. Don’t just think that everything is normal or brush it aside. Pay attention to it like you would in other cases. Listen to your patient, advocate for your patient and check things out. The myth of the strong black woman has done a disservice in the sense that people think black women do not experience the same levels of pain or anguish or debilitation in terms of the body during these particularly delicate times in pregnancy or postpartum.”
Works Cited: Petersen, E., Davis, N., Goodman, D., Cox, S., Syverson, C., Seed, K., Shapiro-Mendoza, C., Callaghan, W. and Barfield, W., 2022. Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Pregnancy-Related Deaths — United States, 2007–2016.
Petersen EE, Davis NL, Goodman D, et al. Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Pregnancy-Related Deaths — United States, 2007–2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2019;68:762–765.