Have you ever considered how the systemic and institutional racism, implicit bias and disempowerment of women might be played out with birth? This is especially true for Black women, many of whom are experiencing discrimination, bias, racism and/or poor care while pregnant, birthing or postpartum. Today’s show explores these dynamics, the findings of a research project and the recommendations that have come out of that research.
We are talking with Professor Chinyere Oparah and Dr. Sayida Peprah, who are part of the Black Women Birthing Justice collective. Today we are discussing some of the research they have done and the report called Battling over Birth. Highlights from our discussion include the power dynamics in the birthing environment for black women, history of sexual survivor issues and how that might impact the birthing experience, empowering Black women in the birth space and some glimpses into what the Battling over Birth report recommends.
Julia Chinyere Oparah is a social justice educator, collective leader, activist scholar, and experienced community organizer who has spent over two decades producing critical scholarship in the service of progressive social movements. Oparah is Provost and Dean of the Faculty and professor of Ethnic Studies at Mills College, and she was educated at Cambridge University and Warwick University
Oparah is the author of Other Kinds of Dreams: Black Women’s Organizations and the Politics of Organization, the only comprehensive history of the black women’s movement in Britain. Her most recent book, Birthing Justice: Black Women, Pregnancy and Childbirth, places Black women at the center of debates around childbirth and highlights their role in the emerging birth justice movement.
Dr. Sayida Peprah became certified through DONA International Inc., as a Birth Doula and began assisting mothers professionally in their journey of pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.
She is currently a Psychologist and founder and director of Diversity Uplifts, Inc. through which she regularly offers cultural competency, mental health and maternal mental health trainings and consultations throughout the US. Dr. Sayida is also an active member of the Black Women Birthing Justice collective, promoting research, education and community-based services to positively transform birthing experiences in the Black community.
- Black Women Birthing Justice: A collective of African-American Caribbean, and multi-racial women who are sharing about the negative experiences they’ve had in their maternal care and childbirth
- How a negative birth experience can be turned around with a great midwife and doula team
- How the actions that are being taken by medical providers are disempowering black women
- How BWBJ began in 2011 with a Research Justice project, with over 100 women being open and honest about their stories
- Battling Over Birth: a human rights report that unpacks the stories of those 100 women and how they found themselves in conflict with their medical providers
- Before the sharing circles, some of the women had no idea of what they had missed out on in their birth experiences
- The comparison with this topic and the sexual survivors of the Me Too movement, and how their birth experiences are re-triggering and re-traumatizing, with further victimization
- How doctors use fear-based coercion to get the women to do what THEY want
- The ramifications and implications for these women, along with the potential stress and trauma
- The opportunity to change the narrative and “do it differently”
- How to have empowerment in the birth experience, including how providers interact with you for physical exams during labor and birth
- How the mental health of these women is affected
- The ways we can make sure this doesn’t keep happening–”This doesn’t have to be normal.”
- How the impact of the negative birth experience bleeds over into breastfeeding
- How the timelines followed in the birthing process don’t take into account the stress and trauma that are added to the process
- What the report shows about the link between postpartum depression being linked to the birth experience, and not just to hormones
- How those disadvantaged in race, class, and relationship status had toxic postpartum environments more frequently
- The shame and judgment that black women feel in admitting postpartum depression, because they are supposed “to be strong”
- These women need to know that reaching out for help is the strong thing to do
- What can healthcare providers do differently?
- Get the report and read the recommendations
- Find out what actions can be taken
- Some of the report’s recommendations regarding prenatal care, postpartum care, empowerment, connections, community, and accountability
- The options for home birth vs. hospital birth
Professor Oparah: https://www.juliachinyereoparah.com/
Dr. Sayida: http://www.DrSayidaPeprah.com
To learn about Dr. Sayida’s non-profit click here: http://www.DiversityUplifts.org, To learn more about the Black community-based doula program and COVID19 doula initiatives Dr. Sayida is working on, click here: http://www.FrontlineDoulas.com
Please find out more by reading that Battling over Birth report at Find the report here: http://www.blackwomenbirthingjustice.org/battling-over-birth