By: Jackie Gabriel, LPC (Temp)
In our ongoing commitment to providing support to individuals and families through the various stages of conception, pregnancy, postpartum, infertility, and loss, Ready Nest Counseling recognizes the pressing need to address the stigma surrounding mental health care, particularly for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) mothers, parents, and families. To pave the way for change, it is essential that we first acknowledge the depth of the issue and understand its underlying causes.
Understanding the Alarming Statistics
In our quest to break the silence, we first have to uncover the facts and figures surrounding maternal health disparities within BIPOC communities. The statistics are nothing short of startling and serve as a reminder of the urgent need for change.
Pregnant Black women in the United States are three times more likely to die during childbirth than their white counterparts.
American-Indian and Alaskan-Native women face a two-fold higher risk of maternal mortality compared to pregnant white women.
The cause of maternal death varies significantly based on ethnicity and background. For instance, pregnant Black women are more likely to succumb to conditions related to blood pressure and heart complications, such as preeclampsia and gestational hypertension. In contrast, Hispanic women are at a higher risk of death due to severe bleeding during delivery.
The Harsh Reality of Infant Mortality
Just as alarming is the disparity in infant mortality rates between BIPOC infants and their white counterparts. Indigenous infants, for instance, face a staggering seven times higher risk of mortality at birth compared to white infants. Non-Hispanic Black infants experience double the mortality rate of white infants.
These statistics weigh heavily on our hearts and demand answers. They beg the question: Why are these disparities so profound, and what can we do to bridge the gap?
Finding the Source
Systemic racism and racial discrimination within the medical field emerge as significant contributors to these statistics. Qualitative studies have unveiled the heartbreaking experiences of BIPOC mothers who, when seeking medical care, often face dismissal and neglect due to biases and prejudices present within healthcare systems.
BIPOC mothers may report pain and discomfort, only to be met with disbelief and dismissal. Conditions and symptoms are missed, sometimes with life-threatening consequences. A common narrative is that healthcare providers may attribute pain to cultural or racial stereotypes, leading to dangerous delays in diagnosis and treatment.
The Role of Unequal Access
Unequal access to high-quality healthcare amplifies the challenges faced by BIPOC mothers and families. Many BIPOC communities lack access to healthcare facilities, and when available, the care may not meet high standards. This leads to early symptoms being overlooked, resulting in more significant problems later on.
Additionally, the shortage of BIPOC healthcare providers further exacerbates the issue. Cultural competence is crucial in healthcare, and when patients interact with providers who lack an understanding of their backgrounds and experiences, miscommunication and misdiagnosis become more likely.
The Importance of Cultural Competence
Cultural competence is a pivotal component in addressing these disparities. Healthcare providers must be equipped with the knowledge and understanding needed to provide effective care to individuals from diverse backgrounds. Mental health and medical care should not be based solely on the majority culture's standards.
For example, depression and anxiety may manifest differently among BIPOC individuals. These conditions may present with physical symptoms, such as sleep disturbances, irritability, and physical pain, rather than the typical sadness and hopelessness associated with depression. Failure to recognize these variations can lead to misdiagnosis or missed diagnoses, contributing to higher mortality rates.
Creating a Path Forward
So, what can be done to rectify these disparities and create a more equitable healthcare system for BIPOC mothers, parents, and families? While there is no single solution, a multifaceted approach shows the most promise.
Acknowledging Implicit Biases: All parties involved, including healthcare providers, medical staff, and society as a whole, must recognize and address their implicit biases. Self-awareness is the first step towards change.
Offering Resources: To compensate for unequal access to healthcare, offering resources such as support groups and reduced-cost services can make a significant difference. Meeting individuals where they are and providing care tailored to their needs is essential.
Cultural Competence Training: Healthcare providers must undergo cultural competence training to better understand the unique experiences and needs of BIPOC patients. This will improve communication and ensure more accurate diagnoses.
Promoting Open Conversations: Encouraging open conversations about mental health within BIPOC communities is vital. By comparing mental health to physical health, individuals can convey the importance of seeking professional help when needed.
Redefining Cultural Norms: Acknowledging and respecting cultural differences in parenting and postpartum care can provide a more supportive environment for BIPOC mothers. This may involve shifting perspectives to understand the client's cultural background and preferences.
Providing Education: Increasing awareness of mental health conditions and their diverse presentations among BIPOC communities can empower individuals to advocate for themselves and seek help when necessary.
The disparities in maternal and infant healthcare outcomes for BIPOC mothers and families are undeniable. Our mission at Ready Nest Counseling is to stand up against the stigma surrounding mental health care, particularly within these communities, and work towards a more equitable healthcare system. By acknowledging the root causes, promoting cultural competence, and fostering open conversations, we can pave the way for a brighter, healthier future for all. Together, we can break the silence and build a more inclusive and supportive healthcare system.
If you find yourself in need of professional help, don't hesitate to reach out to us and schedule a session. Our dedicated team at Ready Nest Counseling is here to help you navigate life's challenges and transitions with care and compassion. Whether you're experiencing difficulties related to conception, pregnancy, postpartum, infertility, loss, parenting, or relationships our therapists are ready to support you. We offer both in-person and virtual therapy. Schedule a therapy session with us today and take the first step towards a healthier you. Ready Nest Counseling also offers support groups for new moms and those who have experienced pregnancy loss. Remember, you don't have to face it alone – we're here for you.