Black Maternal Health Q&A with Dr. Gleaton
What advice do you have for Black women who have high BMI and are discriminated against?
Multiple studies have shown that black women and obese women are often discrimated against in medical and non-medical settings. It’s important to recognize this. Being knowledgeable and proactive is the best defense for any type of discrimation. Knowing your patient rights, your personal and family medical history and what things you are highest risk for can make all the difference. The doctor patient relationship is a partnership and both parties must actively engage for the best outcome. If you feel that your partnership needs work, respectfully but candidly discuss this with your provider to ensure the treatment goals are clear. If that doesn't solve the issue, you’re likely better off seeking care elsewhere.
How can Black women ensure they are respected when seeking care?
I recently spoke on a Black Maternal Health Panel where one of the panelists encouraged Black women to ‘trust their voice”, and I reiterate this. “Trust your voice!” Your fertility journey and autonomy should be respected throughout this often difficult process.
It's also helpful to bring a support person along with you. One that is encouraging, optimistic, yet can remain impartial when decisions need to be made.
And lastly, know your history. It's often difficult for providers to provide the best care if you can’t accurately tell your story. If you’re unsure, obtain your records, and put your medical timeline together so you can present a complete comprehensive picture to your provider. Afterall, there is no story more important than your own. This will ensure that the knowledge necessary to make treatment decisions is available so there's always forward traction in your process.
What actions can BIPOC allies take to combat inequality in maternal outcomes?
It's important that everyone including BIPOC, our allies, healthcare advocates, and providers, recognize the difference in maternal outcomes and their cause.
Maternal outcomes differ for Black women largely due to inequality, racial bias, and inadequate access to care. For patients and providers, these are uncomfortable conversations to have. But a justifiable conversation nonetheless. What truly matters is that Black women are three to four times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth, and that all maternal morbidity and mortality in the US, is on the rise. So our comfort level with these issues is a non-factor.