January 27, 2020

Meghan, Harry and Maternal Mortality

 

What does Megxit have to do with maternal mortality? We will visit 3 countries and find out.

 

England.  Early this month Meghan and Harry, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced their departure from Royal life.  This caught the world by storm and of course opinions began to fly about why they had made this change.  One of the prevailing thoughts was that the vilification by the British media often with racial undertones had gotten all too much for the couple.  It seemed that to live in a system where you are constantly criticized, judged and fighting for the right to be heard and seen is traumatic and debilitating.

 

Now enter America.  While the Brits struggle and debate as to whether their nation has inherent racist structures, Americans have long been open about its racially charged past.  It’s a narrative that plays out even today.  An interesting fact few know is that America has the highest rate of maternal mortality amongst Western nations and its getting worse.  Yes America, with its world-renowned healthcare system has women dying at alarming rates in the process of childbirth.  What’s even more alarming is those rates are 4 times more likely for African American women.  As this New York Times article shows, black women are less likely to be heard and taken seriously by health professionals, they are less likely to be advocated for and have the same level of care as their Caucasian counterparts.  What was even more interesting that that a new immigrant Black woman to America did not suffer this statistic as much as her African American counterpart born and brought up in the country.  Why?  The conclusion was decade after decade of living in an environment of institutionalized racism predisposed these women to high levels of trauma in their bodies which then made them more vulnerable to post-partum complications their other counterparts would not have.  Then because the women’s voices are not heard they are then less likely to have the care they needed to prevent fatality from the complications.  Interesting huh?   In reality I bet most doctors and nurses in America will not identify as racist, but they may not be aware they participate in a subtle system of thinking and tiny behavioural patterns that in essence cumulate to a country where your colour can be a disadvantage during childbirth.

 

Now on to Sierra Leone.  In a country with the highest rate of maternal mortality in the world, you have to also wonder if somehow race and trauma play a factor.  What I have found over and over again is that women from poorer socio-economic backgrounds will not have access to the care they need simply because they are not able to advocate for themselves.  That’s why our education initiatives are so crucial, as it provides crucial empowerment for girls and women.  In addition, women from certain ethic groups within Sierra Leone will be victims of discrimination when trying to access health facilities.  Just like in America they are more likely to be dismissed.  Then there’s the inherent trauma of being a poor woman in Sierra Leone. The history of the country with the civil war and tragic events such as Ebola as well as the intense poverty some have to struggle with daily has contributed to high levels of trauma the women carry within them.  This would then contribute even further to death rates in Childbirth.  Trauma – a hidden culprit.  The problem with trauma is that it kills the heart, essentially leaving the body vulnerable to pre mature death.

Now back to England, we may never know the real reasons that precipitated Megxit.  If race played a small or large part of not at all.  What we do know is that the Sussex’s have hinted that the trauma they were experiencing in their daily lives was slowly killing them.  Harry for one was unwilling to allow childhood traumas to replay themselves out again in his adult life.

 

So at Freedom Tree, this is part of what we do. Ask questions, engage.  The answer may not always seem obvious but when we begin to delve deeper and deeper we find answers.  We want to fully engage and go to the root of the issue so we can solve the problems.  Our pre / post Natal curriculum used in Villages has a whole section on trauma and its effects on birth.  And do you know?  it works!  Communities are able to discuss the impact trauma has had on them and work together to heal.  And then we see increase in the levels of empowerment women have and subsequently reductions in death rates.  Trauma. Who would have thought?

 

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