By Ashley Williams
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and this article was written based on my own google research and experiences with the medical field. I am not advocating for one practice over another and believe everyone should do what is comfortable and necessary for themselves.
There are policies throughout the history of the U.S put in place to control black women’s bodies dating back to slavery. What if I told you, how we are socialized, how we grow up, and the way we interact with the world as women determines how long term health outcomes; specifically reproductive health outcomes? What the doctors won’t tell you is Black women are more likely to struggle with reproductive health.
Pregnancy and labor are extremely taxing on black women’s bodies, but to society, there is the belief black women are stronger; therefore, we can handle more. Simply put, black women aren’t given the same care and treatment of our white counterparts. Black women’s pain often gets ignored under the assumption, “we can take it”, resulting in black women experiencing harsher medical treatment. Toni Morrison discussed this reality in her book, The Bluest Eyes, “Then he got to me he said now these here women [black women] you don’t have any trouble with. They deliver right away and with no pain. Just like horses.” I read this and see myself, although this isn’t the experience of every woman, the probability damn sure scares me.
The doctors didn’t tell me I was at greater risk for developing Uterine fibroids, I hadn’t heard of it until months prior, a concern of an enlarged uterus, hard round belly, and inability to lose weight. My primary care physician was concerned but my OBGYN was not. The doctors didn’t tell me as a Black woman, I would struggle more with maintaining a healthy PH balance. After years of doctor appointments, I pleaded with my OBGYN inquiring ,”Why does this keep happening?!” Her response, “It’s just something some women struggle with”, but what she didn’t say was Black women struggle with this more often. In conducting my own research I discovered there is a link between the issues I was experiencing and vitamin D deficiency (which I have). Apparently, vitamin D deficiency was another health care issue I would face as a black woman.
I am a strong advocate for reproductive health. Black women have been suffering at the hands of medical professionals for too long. My heart leaps for joy thinking of the Black women I know who recently graduated with Masters of Public Health degrees. The field NEEDS you. The field needs culturally competent individuals to dismantle harmful stereotypes and bias practices in the medical field. Even more so, my experience over the last few years has taught me, I cannot solely depend on a doctor to inform me of my health needs. I need to be proactive and a self-advocate when it comes to my body. I know health care is an issue in this country, and a bigger conversation for another time. I encourage getting comfortable with your body. Take time to learn your body. Ask questions, learn your family history and seek help (wherever is affordable). It’ll be worth it in the end.
Ashley Williams is a Contributing Writer for the Pedestal Project, LLC.