Black women are 243% more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth related causes than white women.
I almost became a part of this statistic during and after the birth of my son. I had pregnancy-induced high blood pressure. I was taking a very low dose of Labetalol to manage my blood pressure throughout my pregnancy. My doctor took all of the necessary precautions to make sure my baby and I were safe. We did non-stress test twice a week the last trimester. I was induced 11 days early in order to prevent me from developing preeclampsia. I felt taken care of throughout my pregnancy but post childbirth is a whole other story.
Immediately after I gave birth to Remy my blood pressure spiked to 200+/140+. I felt fine, but I had a lot of adrenaline and drugs. In order to bring my blood pressure down they pumped me full of blood pressure medicine. They thought they would have to do a 24-hour Magnesium Sulfate drip in order to relax my muscles so that I wouldn’t have a seizure. They were able to get my blood pressure down after a couple of hours, so they transferred me to post-partum. Because of the multiple high blood pressures I had throughout labor the delivery doctor wanted me to stay in the hospital for 3-5 days. They ended up letting me out Friday morning almost 36 hours after delivery.
That entire weekend I had been feeling light-headed, but I figured it was from lack of sleep and food. Sunday evening I decided to take my blood pressure because I was developing a small headache. My blood pressure Sunday evening was 180+/130+; my cuff has never read that high before so I figured it was broken. I knew I was going to the hospital on Monday for an appointment and figured I would get it checked while I was there. Well it turned out my blood pressure cuff wasn’t broken and that was a true reading. I had stopped by Maternal Fetal Medicine to have them check it and when it read that high the doctor told me to take another dose of medicine and to go home and relax. I didn’t go home; instead I walked over to my OB/GYN office to have them monitor me for a while. The Maternal Fetal Medicine doctor didn’t even come over to talk to me before trying to send me home. My OB/GYN ended up admitting me into the hospital and I had to stay there for another 3 days and 2 nights. I’m glad I went with my gut and got a second opinion.
I ended up getting admitted back into the hospital about 12 hours after they released me from my second stay. I don’t think I need to go into much detail for it to be obvious that they shouldn’t have let me out if my blood pressures were high enough for another admittance that soon after being released.
The communication at the hospital was awful. I shouldn’t have been released from the hospital in 36 hours; the delivery doctor wanted me to stay for 3-5 days. And because that wasn’t communicated I ended up back in the hospital 3 days later. The next time I was released from the hospital I shouldn’t have been let out then either. My blood pressure barely was below 160/110. The last time I left the hospital my blood pressure was barely below the 160/110 but at least they had changed my medication. The second issue is that the hospital is being run like a business; they want you in and out of there and want to get the next person in. I overheard a conversation between my nurse and doctor where they were both being pressured by the head of labor and delivery to break my water so that I could give birth that afternoon so they could get the next mother that needed to be induced into my room.
So obviously I didn’t die but I very well could have, I truly am lucky to not have had a stroke during this 2-week period. I feel like I am alive by the grace of God. I guess the point of this post is to share my story and to point out how it is the small decisions that are leading to these statistics and that it’s not overt racism. I could have died because my condition wasn’t taken seriously. I could have had multiple strokes all because of a lack of communication between nurses and doctors. I am grateful to have made it out of the situation alive and with a fully capable body.
Here is a link to a report that covers the racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare: http://www.nationalacademies.org/hmd/~/media/Files/Report%20Files/2003/Unequal-Treatment-Confronting-Racial-and-Ethnic-Disparities-in-Health-Care/PatientversionFINAL.pdf I figured a peer-reviewed report would be better than me standing on my soapbox and yelling into the abyss.
Well, I’m alive and now I’m a mother so I hope to share more about those two things with you this next year.