I became pregnant three years ago. It was not planned exactly. When I got used to the idea that I would become a mother, I was done with surprises.
I borrowed a stack of pregnancy books from the library. Late at night, when sleeping was too uncomfortable I flipped through the pregnancy charts and clicked lovingly specific questions about all the strange things that can happen to your body during pregnancy. I interviewed friends who were pregnant or had children. I participated in the expensive birth courses. As the last weeks of pregnancy wandered around, I could tell everyone the signs and stages of labor and exactly what I wanted to do when I was hospitalized to give birth. I felt armed with knowledge.
The special thing about a baby, however, is that you can not know exactly how it will go on. I was lucky that I had made it easy for me and had an uncomplicated pregnancy, but that's not always the case with many. And while some people are experiencing exactly the work they have envisioned, be it at-home birth or staying in an epidural hospital, others are driven into confusing experiences, sometimes with devastating consequences. Of course, this can happen to any pregnant person, but the risk increases for women of skin color, and especially for black women.
I'm an editor for a health media brand. I've always known theoretically that pregnancy is dangerous, but I've never noticed that I had to think more about it than about my white colleagues. When I went to the hospital to deliver my daughter, I did not really think that I would get a Caesarean section . And I definitely did not consider that I would stay in the hospital for 10 days after this emergency caesarean section, while my health team was trying to determine what was wrong with me (it turned out that I did) during or shortly I had no idea that black and Asian infants have the highest birth rates (19459006) in the United States (by the way, I identify with these two breeds). And I certainly did not know that as a black woman, I had an increased risk of developing other complications such as pre-eclampsia and heart failure all the time by the end of 2016. What I know now has been made over the last two years thanks to stellar out-of-box information such as ProPublica and The New York Times much written. Nevertheless, the statistics are repetitive – sobering, eye-opening, hard to believe – the United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates among rich countries and is the only industrialized country where rates are getting worse . Women of all races are affected, but black and Indian mothers die at a much higher rate  than others. In fact, black women die three to four times more often at birth than white and Hispanic women in the United States.
I also know some of the reasons for that. I know, for example, that black mothers are more likely to be uninsured after pregnancy when many complications manifest once their prenatal Medicaid coverage has expired. I know that black women are more likely to give birth in poorer quality hospitals. I know that researchers have suggested that racism plays a role in the death of black mothers – either directly, when it comes to how they are treated in maternity and operating theaters, or indirectly, as was shown that racism has a negative effect on the health of colored people, which may increase the risk of developing a pregnant person during, or during birth complications (a consequence that researchers call "weathering" ) – because the mortality rate exceeds the socioeconomic limit lines.
About a year after my emergency caesarean section and postpartum complications, I read Serena Williams's Vogue report on her own shattering birth experience with a mixture of shock and comfort. I had the tiny sense of failure in my mind to wonder why it took me so long to recover from birth when others seemed to treat it as a stop in the baby business. Understanding that a black woman who embodies strength and has all the resources you can imagine, also terribly unable to give birth, helped me understand that I was blind to something I could not have foreseen , Getting to know Beyonce's similarly frightening experience helped me to feel less alone too. This brought home for me: the more we talk about our experiences and share results, the better it is for all of us.
Now I know it. Some of you know it too. However, this is a reality that every should know.
Today, SELF launches a new editorial series examining what we know about the mortality and morbidity of black mothers and where we go from here. Every piece is a must for any black person who is pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant. The aim of this series is to provide prospective black mothers with as much information as possible before they are in the work and delivery room.
We start the series in three parts: the beginning and the promise to keep discussing this topic as long as it remains a public health crisis.
The first of these three pieces is our cover story from July, a sprinter profile and the Olympian Allyson Felix . Felix, the best-honored athlete in US history, had her own life-threatening experiences at birth last year – when she was 32 weeks pregnant, two months before her delivery date, she learned she had severe pre-eclampsia and needed it to have her baby that day. She had a cesarean section. Her daughter Camryn Grace spent the next month in intensive care. Well, Felix – someone who did not even know that something like that could have happened to them – speaks up so that other black mothers in their words "have all the means to face what's coming. "I talked to her about all this and more last month; You can read the entire profile here .
The second piece in this series focuses on politics and politics. Because while education and awareness are essential, it is not just up to us to save our own lives. We deserve a systematic change that directly reduces the death of black mothers. That means choosing lawmakers who rightfully recognize that this is a major public health crisis and want to do something about it, especially with regard to black mothers mortality. It is important that we urge them to go beyond the implementation (still more important) of general guidelines on maternal mortality. A typical example: California has recently standardized emergency care for motherhood, halving maternal mortality and yet the mortality rate remains more stubborn for black women in California than for white women female. So it's clear that the problem can not be solved with just a race-blind solution. That's why we've asked every single presidential candidate what he's up to to target the black maternal mortality crisis – you can see their answers (or missing answers) here . If this is an issue that is important to you, the many answers will tell you who to support when we approach 2020.
The third part of our series introduction is an informative service section that helps you navigate the Internet Pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum period with open eyes: 11 Conditions You Should Know When You Are Black and Pregnant lists the most common conditions for which you are at risk, and what signs and symptoms you should have are aware of.
We will continue to treat the mortality and morbidity of black mothers this year and beyond. The goal, as I said, is to explore this very important aspect of life as a black mother in the United States. Over the next few months, look for Doulas profiles that help save the lives of black mothers. what pregnant people should know about weathering; the policies and procedures that have actually contributed to reducing the death of black mothers; and more. The goal is not to scare you, but to help all of us understand what we are working against – and maybe help each other out a bit. Because our numbers are strong and this public health crisis requires every attention that it can get.
Leta Shy is the digital director of SELF.