Giving birth is a significant and transformative experience. Welcoming a new life into the world from within your own body is powerful and sacred. This time should be filled with love, support, and celebration! Still, when we consider the gaps in health outcomes for Black mamas, we recognize that we must create change so that they can birth as safely in the U.S. as all other women.

Choose Black Joy

When we center Black joy in the birthing process, it incorporates the strength, resilience, and beauty of Black mamas and families. As Healthy Mom&Baby observes Black Maternal Health Week 2024, we encourage you to consider the importance of centering Black joy in birthing.

Historically and now, the U.S. healthcare system continues to fail the Black community, as evidenced by the vastly unequal rates of harm and death among Black mamas when compared to all other birthing women in this country. Black women face barriers in our healthcare system that include neglectful care, bias, and disrespect. These barriers put Black mamas’ lives at risk by as much as 3-4 times of all other women birthing in the U.S.

Where is the joy in that?

However, by focusing on this year’s theme, “Our bodies still belong to us, reproductive justice now” we can begin to center Black joy in birthing and purposefully work to dismantle these harmful actions and create an equitable, safe, supportive, and empowering birthing culture for Black mamas.

Embrace Cultural Traditions and Practices

Black joy in birthing extends beyond labor, birth, and postpartum recovery. It is the entire journey that culminates in baby’s birth. Cultural traditions and practices that have been passed down through generations foster joy and connection. From ancestral rituals to music, storytelling, and dance, making space for the traditions within Black birthing culture creates a sense of community, empowerment, and pride.

Amplify the Voices of Black Mamas

To center Black joy in birthing is to amplify Black voices and experiences. All mamas should feel seen, heard, supported, and cared for, especially Black mamas, throughout their pregnancy, during childbirth, and while recovering from birth and beginning breastfeeding.

Healthcare providers and birth workers are responsible for practicing cultural humility and understanding to ensure Black mamas receive holistic and respectful care that acknowledges their unique needs and values.

Too often, Black mamas are affected by discrimination, gaps in care, and disparities that put their lives, including their baby’s life, at risk. This includes receiving prenatal care and birth support with fewer resources and support than other birthing women. Ultimately, this neglect of Black women’s health needs in pregnancy, birth, and postpartum recovery has produced higher rates of maternal morbidity and mortality among Black birthing women.

Center Black joy in birthing means we:

  • Empower Black mamas to advocate for themselves
  • Advise Black mamas to receive care from a culturally competent care pregnancy care provider
  • Prioritize the well-being of Black mamas and that of their babies

During Black Maternal Health Week, and all year long, we celebrate the beauty and strength of Black motherhood. Prioritizing Black motherhood means we move from struggles through bad outcomes to a supportive birthing environment for Black mamas that yields healthy and thriving Black families in our communities.

Create Safe and Supportive Spaces

Black mamas, just like all families, deserve excellent healthcare and support during birth. Culturally effective care means pregnancy care providers and their staff are sensitive and responsive to the unique needs of Black mamas and offer inclusive resources that serve their families.

Foster Connection and Community

Centering Black joy in birthing is also about deepening connections and community among and within Black families. Building networks of support, sharing stories, and celebrating each other’s experiences creates a sense of unity and solidarity that goes beyond individual outcomes.

It’s essential that Black families can come together to uplift and empower each other to create a lasting legacy of love, strength, and joy that will foster the health and well-being of all future Black generations.

Re-envision Black Birthing

Black maternal health and well-being only improves when we eliminate racism and bias in healthcare, including biases among pregnancy care providers.  There’s no room for racism in a culturally healthy birthing community.

We begin to build a more inclusive and supportive healthcare system for Black mamas when we advocate for policy changes, increase access to quality healthcare, and promote anti-racist practices. Every step that removes the root causes of these inequities builds a future where Black mamas can birth, and babies can be born in a safe environment bolstered by dignity, respect, and joy.

Black Maternal Health Week is a reminder that it’s right and just to center Black joy in all aspects of life, including birth.

When Black mamas are celebrated for their beauty, resilience, and strength, our world grows more inclusive and equitable because every birthing experience is valued, healthy, and welcomed. Let’s commit ourselves to centering Black joy in birthing and push maternal health disparities into the past.

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Shawana S. Moore, DNP, APRN, WHNP-BC, PNAP, FAAN, is a women’s health nurse practitioner. She serves as an Associate Professor and the DNP Program Director at Emory University’s Nell Hodgson School of Nursing. She is passionate about equitable, respectful, and inclusive maternal-child care.

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