10 Ways To Celebrate Pregnancy in Spite of the Maternal Mortality Crisis

Though Black birthing people have to be conscious of disproportionate risks during pregnancy, it doesn't mean that the experience can't be full of joy.

Pregnant woman laying in mans lap on a couch
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Alison Winterroth/Stocksy

Pregnancy is known to involve many highs and lows. Yet many pregnant people find themselves wallowing in their lows wondering how to experience the highs they once looked forward to during gestation. This is can be especially true for Black pregnant people who are more likely to face issues when they give birth

Health education is an essential component for a smooth pregnancy and delivery, and that includes, acknowledging that Black women are three times more likely to die than white women during birth, said Dr. Cheyenne Bryant Ph.D., psychologist, and life coach. It also means recognizing the signs of preeclampsia since American-born Black women are also more likely to develop it.

They may also routinely be reminded of other shortcomings surrounding their pregnancy from being underinsured, to having unreliable transportation, or a  lack of support. Add that to the common woes of little to nonexistent parental leave, inaccessible childcare, morning sickness, and an ongoing formula shortage, and you have the makings for a stressful and mentally exhausting pregnancy experience.

Still, even with all that’s working against Black pregnant people, there are many things working in their favor that need to be celebrated. Here are 10 ways Black birthing people can find joy in pregnancy.

01 of 10

Listen to the Birthright podcast.

Despite the stories highlighting the probability of death, complications in childbirth, and gaps in care for Black pregnant people, they are still having uncomplicated births daily.

A higher probability of death and misfortune throughout pregnancy does not mean it will happen to you, Bryant points out. Pregnant patients are encouraged to look for good news in the midst of the bad. Sites like Happy Parents Happy Baby and podcasts like Birthright focus on the positive delivery experiences of Black parents. 

Furthermore, more coverage of the birth deserts and poor pregnancy outcomes has resulted in increased resources for implicit bias training among providers and birth education initiatives. It also led to legislation like the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021, which focused on increasing investments in community care, improving maternal resources, and collecting more data on the perinatal experience.

02 of 10

Identify resources.

One of the most difficult parts of pregnancy is feeling a loss of control, says Bryant, especially when it comes to access. Some reports suggest a sense of control has an impact on your overall well-being and stress levels.

Sometimes finding joy in pregnancy really comes down to regaining control in whatever way makes sense to you. That starts with making a list of everything you need, what might be problematic, and potential resources. 

Once you create the list, share it with your trusted friends. They may be able to point you in the direction of resources, offer pep talks if the list is overwhelming, or offer to help with some things themselves. Some resources for common pain points for Black pregnant people are: 211 for Help with Medical Expenses and Ride in Bliss or Charity Motors for transportation assistance. Centering Healthcare Institute is also a resource for person-centered, comprehensive prenatal care in a group setting.

03 of 10

Sign up for Irth.

If one of the main issues negatively affecting your pregnancy is receiving poor-quality treatment from a doctor, it makes sense to get a new one. Though it might be challenging to choose a new provider because it depends on how far along you are, being vocal about the need to change and asking people you know for referrals can make it possible.

Review boards such as Irth App, provide feedback from Black parents about their experiences with varying hospitals, pediatricians, and doctors. They can be helpful in choosing a provider for a new pregnancy or switching practices midway through to improve the gestation experience. 

04 of 10

Trust and connect with your body.

Pregnancy comes with a lot of opinions, advice, and second-guessing which can be overwhelming, says Kelsey Domiana Ndour, a somatic coach and author of Help! I need a break from Motherhood.  Something as simple as rubbing your hands together, placing your left hand on your heart, and closing your eyes, as needed can make a difference mentally, she says. 

“You might feel a flutter or kick, or might feel nothing but that’s part of the connection and trust.  That connection is everything because you and [your baby] are a team through delivery and postpartum. And you have to start working together,” says Ndour.

05 of 10

Apply for the Black Birth Equity Grant through Baby Dove.

Doulas have been increasingly associated with not only improving the outcome of delivery but a smooth and happy pregnancy. “Doulas take on the role of centering the pregnant woman to ensure that she has the things she needs to thrive and move through the perinatal and postpartum period smoothly,” said Chanel Porchia-Albert, founder of Ancient Song Doula Services & co-creator of JustBirth Space

Doulas can also help with overnight visits and assist with bonding efforts between the parents and baby. The presence of a doula from pregnancy and the transition into motherhood can lend to them feeling affirmed.

Depending on the pregnant person's financial state or insurance coverage, a doula may or may not be within reach. Initiatives like the Black Birth Equity Grant through Baby Dove can give Black parents access to the support they need. 

06 of 10

Have a nesting party.

Baby showers and gender reveals can be fun, but they don’t do much in helping moms feel settled and prepared once the baby arrives. In a viral Facebook post, one grandmother shared how the village came together to help her pregnant daughter with all the birthing essentials.

They folded clothes, sanitized bottles, helped with meal prep, and talked through her birthing plan. Getting all the tasks out of the way, which typically causes overwhelming stress, with a group can lend to a joyful moment in pregnancy.

07 of 10

Find a birthing center.

Despite the higher rates of pregnancy and birth complications for Black pregnant people reported throughout the United States, studies show that pregnancy care provided by midwives or birthing centers can lead to better pregnancy outcomes and care following delivery.

A report from the Burke Foundation's partnership with New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute found that pregnant patients who received care from midwives had fewer preterms births, fewer cesarean sections, fewer inductions, and better self-esteem and relationship with their environment and surroundings.

Though there are few birthing centers in the United States, you may be able to find one through the American Association of Birth Centers directory.

08 of 10

Nurture your friendships.

Situational loneliness is an issue that can arise during pregnancy and in parenting and can lead to stress, anxiety, and even depression. It’s not uncommon for Black women to not share those concerns with friends and family as they uphold the image of the “strong black woman.” It can be equally affirming and limiting if a lack of vulnerability strains relationships. 

A 2015 study from Arizona State University found that even with a solid romantic partnership, fulfilling friendships still proved to have a stronger effect on a mother’s well-being. Including your friends in celebrating pregnancy milestones, keeping communication open, and being realistic about expectations and needs can all be helpful in maintaining happy and fulfilling friendships throughout pregnancy and long after.

09 of 10

Sign up for Brown Skin Brunchin.’

If you are already feeling lonely, and in need of friendships, you’re not alone.

Fortunately, apps like Brown Skin Brunchin’, which connects Black women and people of color with like-minded individuals over brunch make it easy to foster friendships. Other apps and communities helpful in finding friendships and support include Melinated Moms or Peanut.

10 of 10

Engage in rites of passage.

It’s not uncommon for many Black pregnant people to feel ill-equipped with the challenges awaiting them in pregnancy. Some rituals can help with that. A Blessingway is a rite of passage involving the sharing of motherhood wisdom that can provide reassurance.

The focus of it is honoring your ancestors and passing along the wisdom of the women in your family or circle. Invite women to bring a bead and as they present it to you they share wisdom and put it onto a string to become a necklace, Ndour says. 

“That necklace can be worn for the rest of the pregnancy or during delivery. It’s like her armor and reminder that she’s never alone as she calls on the strength of the women around her for guidance,” she says.

Editor's Note

Though this story addresses prenatal activities for mothers, Kindred by Parents acknowledges that not all birthing people identify as women.

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