Breaking the Silence: Black Women and Pregnancy After Loss Awareness

Hey Y’all! March is Pregnancy After Loss Awareness Month and I couldn’t let the month end without acknowledgment.

One of the crazy things about grief is how a seemingly mundane experience, a random smell, or anything really can transport you through time. I had a memory recently while reading some maternal mental health statistics. I was transported back to the hospital after my daughter had died, sitting in the NICU waiting area. Distraught. In walks a social worker beaconing me to her offices. She provided me with resources and spoke about the next steps. You know…like…choosing a funeral home. One of the things she said to me as we sat in her office was that due to this experience, I would be at greater risk for perinatal depression in any future pregnancy. What??? I can still feel the sting of her words. The warmth of the tears that I cried. I just couldn’t understand why this was happening. How did I go from being pregnant with a beautiful, healthy baby to sitting with a social worker expressing her condolences?  To being more at risk for perinatal depression? Little did I know, I was ALREADY at greater risk for perinatal depression simply by being a black woman. Black women are more likely than any other group to experience Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs).

 

I want to pause here and share some alarming statistics:

 

  • 1 in 4 women will experience pregnancy or infant loss.
  • Black infants have 2.3x the infant mortality rate compared to white babies.
  • Black women over the age of 30 are 4-5x more likely to lose their baby than their white counterparts.
  • Black women with a college degree are 5x more likely to lose their baby than white women with a high school education.

 

Sobering facts. The conclusion can be drawn that black women are more likely to experience a pregnancy after a loss than any other group. Yet black women aren’t seeking supportive services. We are underrepresented in the pregnancy and infant loss and pregnancy after loss support arenas.

“I’m a counselor, I’ll get a book and journal through this”.

In the days following my loss, I can recall thinking, “I know how to handle grief. I’ll be fine. I’ll get through this. I’m a counselor, I’ll get a book and journal through this.” The resources I was given informed me of a few organizations that conducted support groups. Perfect. I figured I’d go to the support group and handle everything else on my own. I was wrong. So wrong. About a week in I was in a deep depression and struggling to survive. The closest support group was about an hour away from my work and I had already missed the one for that month. I felt alone and angry all the time. I decided to seek professional help. It helped me to stay afloat. I wish that I would have remained consistent during my 1st pregnancy after loss. I was so incredibly depressed and still grieving. I needed the support of a mental health professional. The lack of accessibility was a huge factor for me. With my schedule at the time, it was hard to get to a counseling session or support group once you factor in drive time. Another contributing factor was this unconscious belief that I am a mental health professional, I should be able to support myself through this. I have the tools. I am indeed a mental health professional who has a lot of tools AND it is also true that I desperately needed the support of another mental health professional as well as others who shared my experience. There is strength in vulnerability and sharing your story.

“Virtual support groups are now an option”.

The last several years have really brought about a change in the therapy world and made it more accessible with virtual options. There are live virtual support groups. You can do therapy on your phone during the workday now. I hope that things will continue to become more accessible for families.

Virtual Support Groups:

https://pregnancyafterlosssupport.org/get-support/

https://rtzhope.org/register

https://www.mend.org/virtual-support-group-links

https://www.postpartum.net/get-help/psi-online-support-meetings/

The day my daughter died I joined several communities that I never wished to be a part of. A year later I joined another, the Pregnancy After Loss Community. I honor our courage to embark on the journey of pregnancy after loss. I hope the coming years will see a shift in black women seeking support in their grief and pregnancy after loss journey. There is strength in seeking help.

 

Stats:

https://rtzhope.org/bipoc

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