Olympian Allyson Felix’s Highlights the Risks Black Mothers Face

Olympian Allyson Felix’s Highlights the Risks Black Mothers FaceAllyson Felix, renowned Olympic sprinter, recently shared her personal experience in an interview with Meet the Press, shedding light on the significant risks Black mothers face during pregnancy. Felix expressed her surprise at being at risk and emphasized the importance of being informed about potential complications, particularly preeclampsia, a condition she was unfamiliar with. Despite feeling heard during her ordeal, she acknowledged the systemic issue of many Black mothers not being adequately heard or educated about pregnancy risks.

Felix stressed the lack of early education on the signs and prevention of preeclampsia, noting that the condition may not always exhibit symptoms. She highlighted the need for better communication about the heightened risk for Black mothers and proactive measures to monitor blood pressure. Her personal experience took a severe turn, with doctors expressing concerns about potential stroke and loss of vision, leading to an emergency delivery to address her preeclampsia.

The track and field star further revealed that her entire team, consisting of four members of color, faced complications during pregnancy, tragically resulting in the death of one teammate, Tori Bowie. Despite having access to top-notch medical care, Felix emphasized the stark reality of Black women facing heightened dangers during childbirth in America, calling for urgent attention to this issue.

Felix called for increased implicit bias training for healthcare workers, emphasizing that individuals should not have to be prepared to advocate for themselves in healthcare settings. Felix highlighted the need for policy changes and heightened awareness regarding the alarming statistics: women of color are three times more likely to die in childbirth, and 80 percent of complications are preventable.

In her message to partners and family members, Felix underscored the necessity for self-advocacy and raising awareness among loved ones, sharing the significant role her husband played in making critical decisions during her health crisis. Despite her desire to have children, Felix expressed genuine concerns about not being there to raise her child should possibly fatal complications arise again. Allyson Felix brought attention to a pressing issue, urging for collective efforts to address and prevent the disproportionately high risks faced by Black mothers in childbirth.

What is implicit bias?

The American Bar Association published an article about how the health disparities experienced by Black individuals, including increased morbidity and earlier mortality, can be attributed in part to the quality of healthcare they receive. Black people often receive lower-quality healthcare compared to their white counterparts. Studies by the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) have highlighted that racial and ethnic minorities consistently receive inferior healthcare, even when controlling for factors like insurance status, income, age, and severity of conditions. This disparity extends to areas such as cardiac care, kidney dialysis or transplants, and treatments for conditions like stroke, cancer, or AIDS.

Numerous studies reinforce these findings, demonstrating that people of color are less likely to receive effective treatments compared to white individuals, irrespective of factors like class, health behaviors, and access to healthcare. For instance, Black patients with heart disease may receive older and cheaper treatments, face delays in surgeries, and experience earlier discharges from hospitals compared to white patients. These disparities also extend to treatments for conditions like bipolar disorder, where Black patients are more likely to receive less desirable treatments.

Implicit biases held by healthcare providers, whether consciously or unconsciously, have been proposed as a significant factor contributing to racial disparities in healthcare. While physicians may not overtly express racial biases, unconscious attitudes formed by societal narratives can influence their decisions. The Implicit Association Test (IAT) has revealed that physicians, like the general population, may harbor implicit biases associating white faces with positive words more easily than Black faces. These implicit biases can affect treatment decisions, as shown in experiments where physicians with pro-white biases were more likely to prescribe pain medications to white patients than to Black patients.

Addressing racial disparities in health requires acknowledging both individual biases and structural factors. While implicit biases may contribute to healthcare disparities, they operate within a larger framework of structural inequalities, including limited access to public health insurance, residential segregation, and a two-tiered healthcare system. Recognizing and addressing both individual and structural factors is essential for achieving health equity for people of color.

 How to be your own health advocate

While you shouldn’t have to advocate for yourself, especially when it comes to your own health, it is an unfortunate reality that women, especially Black women, face thanks to implicit bias.

Here are several tips to help in advocating for yourself during your pregnancy:

  • Educate yourself. Take the time to learn about the various stages of pregnancy, potential complications, and available prenatal care options. Knowledge empowers you to make informed decisions about your health and the well-being of your baby.
  • Ask questions. During prenatal visits, don’t hesitate to ask your healthcare provider any questions or express concerns you may have. Clarify any uncertainties about recommended procedures, medications, or lifestyle changes. Open communication is key.
  • Express your preferences. Clearly communicate your preferences regarding your birth plan, pain management options, and any cultural or personal considerations. Your healthcare team should be aware of your wishes to ensure a more personalized and positive pregnancy experience.
  • Seek second opinions. If you receive a diagnosis or recommendation that raises concerns, consider seeking a second opinion from another healthcare professional. Different perspectives can provide valuable insights and options.
  • Establish a support system. Surround yourself with a supportive network of family, friends, or a doula who can advocate for your needs during medical appointments and labor. Having someone by your side can offer emotional support and ensure your voice is heard.
  • Know your rights. Understand your rights as a patient, including the right to informed consent and refusal. If you feel pressured into a decision or treatment, assert your right to fully understand the situation and make choices aligned with your values.
  • Monitor your well-being. Pay attention to changes in your body and how you feel. If you experience new symptoms or discomfort, report them to your healthcare provider promptly. Your awareness contributes to the overall monitoring of your health.
  • Create a birth plan. Develop a birth plan that outlines your preferences for labor, delivery, and postpartum care. Share this plan with your healthcare team, so they are aware of your expectations and can work to accommodate them to the extent possible.
  • Participate in decision-making. Actively participate in decisions related to your pregnancy and birth. Your input is valuable, and collaborative decision-making with your healthcare team ensures that your preferences are considered.
  • Document everything. Keep a record of your medical history, test results, and any communications with your healthcare providers. This documentation can be useful for reference, especially if you need to consult with other healthcare professionals or seek a second opinion.

Remember, advocating for yourself during pregnancy is about actively engaging with your healthcare team, staying informed, and expressing your preferences and concerns. This is your delivery, your baby, your body, and so your opinion matters.

Paulson & Nace: Professionals in the field of representing Black mothers

If you believe that you or your baby were injured during your pregnancy, labor, and/or delivery due to the actions or inactions of your healthcare team, then you deserve to be heard and to be compensated. The legal team at Paulson & Nace have long been representatives for clients who have suffered from birth injuries from medical malpractice. We have a long history of securing settlements and awards for victims of medical negligence. We also have a history of representing Black clients who have suffered from being treated unjustly due to racial bias and implicit bias.

Please contact Paulson & Nace, PLLC through this contact form or by calling our office.

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