It’s clear that pregnant Black women are more likely to experience poor treatment by the medical establishment than other races. It’s why there has been a push for home births.
But due to insurance, various health needs, and differing living situations, not everyone can birth at home. So how do you have an empowering birth when you have to stay in the hospital?
These four tips can help Black women have better hospital births.
1. Educate Yourself
Don’t just assume what your insurance will and won’t cover. Look up your plan online to find out what the basic services are, as well as what doctors and hospitals are in your network, if you are not already familiar.
Although websites are usually very good at giving basic information, giving the insurance company a call and asking directly about what benefits are covered for pregnant and birthing people will let you know right away what your options are. Most insurance plans won’t cover midwives, but you may be able to have one if they work for the hospital.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, many prenatal care needs are covered—but there are still things you need to check into. At the very least, you’ll want to ask your insurance company about deductibles and policy limits. Also check in about which hospitals and doctors work in your insurance network, including specialists. We all hope for healthy babies and pregnancies, but if you need additional care, you’ll need to know which doctors will be available to you.
This is also a good time to find out which OBGYN offices are in your network, if you do not already have a stable doctor, and where they have hospital privileges. Each hospital is different when it comes to the care options they offer. For example, did you know that some hospitals have birthing pools available? Some are family first and create a more home-like environment in the delivery room where siblings and partners can comfortably stay. Others are much more clinical. Some keep the baby in the room the entire time with the parent, others have a nursery.
See what’s available to you and make a choice based on what’s the most comfortable for you. You can schedule tours at most hospitals so you can see up close what they’re like, long before you give birth. Keep in mind that your insurance may not cover all of these options, or may only cover a partial amount, so keeping on top of contacting them, early and often, is the best practice.
As Black women, it’s really important to know what sort of interventions and care are available to us. Talk to your family about their medical and birthing history to learn if you have family members who had health issues or complications. If there are any health problems that can be screened for, then asking about coverage for screening and intervention during your pregnancy should be a priority. Unfortunately, we have to very proactive in our care.
We need to be extra vigilant in educating and advocating for ourselves, says Shannon “Nola” Solomon of Doula Nola in Orlando, Florida.
“Completely understand your medical circumstances,” Shannon says. “If you have preeclampsia, you may need more intermittent monitoring and be on a ‘countdown.’ Know how you handle certain medications. If you get nauseous when you get pain meds, if they offer you morphine it’s not a good option for you.”
Also understand your rights as a patient, and have a plan in mind for how you’d want any potential emergencies to be handled—Babble has a helpful guide to get you started.
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This piece is part of mater mea’s Empowered Birth series, highlighting ways Black women can have birth experiences that leave them and their families feeling safe and respected. Click here for more stories.
This story by Donyae Coles first appeared on mater mea.