Black Maternal Health Week is underway and its shining light on the many struggles and complications that Black mothers face before, during, and after childbirth.
According to the CDC, “Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than White women,” with healthcare disparities, implicit bias, underlying chronic conditions and structural racism all acting as factors that can contribute to such tragedies.
This week is a crucial time to promote the proper advocacy of Black women’s maternal health by bringing light and education to expecting mothers and future mothers in order to improve the outcome of pregnancy-related deaths and complications.
Over the last few years, many Black celebrity mothers have been pulling back the veil and opening up about their own experiences high-risk pregnancies and delivery room mishaps. While many of them have since been able to build their family and conceive with proper treatments and support, their stories speak to a larger need for moms-to-be to know the maternal warning signs and the need to improve the quality of prenatal and postpartum support for all.
In her 2018 Vogue cover story, Beyoncè revealed that she had toxemia while pregnant with her twins.
“I was 218 pounds the day I gave birth to Rumi and Sir. I was swollen from toxemia and had been on bed rest for over a month,” she shared in her personal essay. “My health and my babies’ health were in danger, so I had an emergency C-section. We spent many weeks in the NICU.”
Toxemia, otherwise known as preeclampsia, is a rare, pregnancy complication that results in high blood pressure, weight gain, shortness of breath caused by fluid in your lungs, and protein in the urine.
She and her husband, Jay-Z are parents of three.
(Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for TIDAL)
In an essay for Elle, tennis champion Serena Williams shared the details of what she experienced while giving birth to her daughter, Olympia, who is now 4.
After undergoing a C-section, Williams requested a blood thinner in light of being “at high risk for blood clots,” however, her requests went unheard. “No one was really listening to what I was saying. The logic for not starting the blood thinners was that it could cause my C-section wound to bleed, which is true. Still, I felt it was important and kept pressing. All the while, I was in excruciating pain. I couldn’t move at all — not my legs, not my back, nothing,” Williams shared. As she shared in an essay for CNN in 2018, she ended up with a pulmonary embolism.
“First my C-section wound popped open due to the intense coughing I endured as a result of the embolism. I returned to surgery, where the doctors found a large hematoma, a swelling of clotted blood, in my abdomen. And then I returned to the operating room for a procedure that prevents clots from traveling to my lungs. When I finally made it home to my family, I had to spend the first six weeks of motherhood in bed,” she wrote.
(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
The iconic Olympian has been at the forefront of trying to bring awareness to the Black maternal health crisis, going all the way to Congress to have her voice heard. At 32 weeks, she was told by her doctor that she had severe preeclampsia. Two months before her due date, she underwent a C-section and her daughter was in the NICU for a month after the delivery, born at three pounds. “I really want women to be aware, to know if they’re at risk, to have a plan in place, to not be intimidated in doctor’s offices, and to be heard,” she told the CDC about her experience. “To know the signs and be persistent about anything that does not feel normal.”
The actress wrote an essay for ESSENCE
in 2019 about her birth experience with her first son in 2016, which was complete chaos. “My low risk pregnancy resulted in extremely questionable actions on the part of those attending and an emergency c-section. My labor was harried, filled with people I didn’t know screaming at me,” she wrote. After being “traumatized” by that experience, when she was pregnant with her second child, she sought the services of a midwife to help her deliver at home and felt empowered as she prepared to deliver baby #2. She successfully did so in the summer of 2019.
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The RHOA star, who had a high risk pregnancy while carrying her “miracle baby,” daughter Brooklyn, had quite the delivery. She was diagnosed with preeclampsia that left her needing an emergency C-section weeks before her due date. From there, she revealed that she was cut both horizontally and vertically because of fibroids her physician was trying to avoid that could have caused her to bleed out. Her surgery lasted a whopping three hours, with the star waking up in the middle, scared that the worst had occurred. “I couldn’t see but I could hear everything. And I was trying to talk, but I couldn’t get the words out — nobody could hear me,” Moore recalls. “I thought, ‘I didn’t make it. I lost too much blood.’ I literally thought I was dead and had passed away. Because my thoughts were there, I was present. But no one could see that I was struggling, trying to wake up. It was crazy,” she told PEOPLE. Thankfully, both mom and baby came out of the ordeal fine, with Moore even open to trying to have more kids in the future.