Home #ScaleFreeBaby Beyonce and the Dangers of Childbirth for Black Women

Beyonce and the Dangers of Childbirth for Black Women

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Photo credit: Flicks / agecombahia

I know that Beyonce’s quotes about her FUPA (fatty upper pubic area—yes I’m purposely calling it ‘pubic’ and not what you likely call it—also sometimes known as a ‘dunlap’) feel like primo Erika-bait, and they are… but I want to touch on something else, first.

Bear with me for a second.

In Vogue Magazine, she says:

After the birth of my first child, I believed in the things society said about how my body should look. I put pressure on myself to lose all the baby weight in three months, and scheduled a small tour to assure I would do it. Looking back, that was crazy. I was still breastfeeding when I performed the Revel shows in Atlantic City in 2012. After the twins, I approached things very differently.

 

I was 218 pounds the day I gave birth to Rumi and Sir. I was swollen from toxemia and had been on bed rest for over a month. My health and my babies’ health were in danger, so I had an emergency C-section. We spent many weeks in the NICU. My husband was a soldier and such a strong support system for me. I am proud to have been a witness to his strength and evolution as a man, a best friend, and a father. I was in survival mode and did not grasp it all until months later. Today I have a connection to any parent who has been through such an experience. After the C-section, my core felt different. It had been major surgery. Some of your organs are shifted temporarily, and in rare cases, removed temporarily during delivery. I am not sure everyone understands that. I needed time to heal, to recover. During my recovery, I gave myself self-love and self-care, and I embraced being curvier. I accepted what my body wanted to be. After six months, I started preparing for Coachella. I became vegan temporarily, gave up coffee, alcohol, and all fruit drinks. But I was patient with myself and enjoyed my fuller curves. My kids and husband did, too.

 

I think it’s important for women and men to see and appreciate the beauty in their natural bodies. That’s why I stripped away the wigs and hair extensions and used little makeup for this shoot.

To this day my arms, shoulders, breasts, and thighs are fuller. I have a little mommy pouch, and I’m in no rush to get rid of it. I think it’s real. Whenever I’m ready to get a six-pack, I will go into beast zone and work my ass off until I have it. But right now, my little FUPA and I feel like we are meant to be.

First and foremost, toxemia. We hear it by its more common term nowadays, preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia is a form of aggressive and sudden high blood pressure that happens shortly after childbirth. It’s often accompanied by what we call edema—an intense kind of swelling in the limbs. I’ve spoken about this before—I had edema so bad, at one point after my first born, that if you pressed your finger tips into my calf, it would leave an indentation. For mine, I had to have regular ultrasounds to make sure I was okay.

Preeclampsia is a condition that tends to follow women who carry heavy pregnancies like twins, or simply larger babies-to-be. In a functional sense, we—health and fitness professionals—tend to see it crop up in those whose bodies had a hard time acclimating to the new demands of carrying a pregnancy to term, especially demanding ones like multiples.

Those who had high blood pressure prior to pregnancy are all but expected to have elevated blood pressure after childbirth.

I know these things because I read the reports, I know the research about high blood pressure, and I pay attention to the blood pressure facts with regard to black women. I’m certified to understand these things and, at the bare minimum, be able to understand the research and ask relevant questions and (within reason] understand the answers given.

I also know the likelihood that a hospital is going to act on these things, because…

Every year, thousands of women suffer life-altering injuries or die during childbirth because hospitals and medical workers skip safety practices known to head off disaster, a USA TODAY investigation has found.

 

Doctors and nurses should be weighing bloody pads to track blood loss so they recognize the danger sooner. They should be giving medication within an hour of spotting dangerously high blood pressure to fend off strokes.

 

These are not complicated procedures requiring expensive technology. They are among basic tasks that experts have recommended for years because they can save mothers’ lives.

The article goes on, noting:

USA TODAY obtained more than a half-million pages of internal hospital quality records and examined the cases of more than 150 women whose deliveries went terribly wrong. Reporters contacted 75 birthing hospitals to track whether they follow recommended procedures.

 

Together, these documents and interviews reveal a stunning lack of attention to safety recommendations and widespread failure to protect new mothers.

 

At dozens of hospitals in New York, Pennsylvania and the Carolinas – where USA TODAY obtained records through federally funded quality programs – fewer than half of maternity patients were promptly treated for dangerous blood pressure that put them at risk of stroke. At some of those hospitals, less than 15 percent of mothers in peril got recommended treatments, the records show.

 

Many hospitals across the country conceded in interviews with USA TODAY that they were not taking safety steps such as quantifying women’s blood loss or tracking whether moms with dangerously high blood pressure got proper medication in time.

 

The lack of attention happens at hospitals big and small, from tiny community delivery units to major birthing centers that tout state-of-the art technology and training. It also happens in doctors’ offices when they miss or fail to act on signs of serious complications during pregnancy and after delivery. [source]

Let me put it to you like this—let’s see if I can make it crystal clear.

Your blood serves as a sort of train inside your body. Your blood vessels—arteries and veins—are your train tracks. Inside your train’s cars, you will find the oxygen necessary to keep your limbs healthy, right down to your fingers and toes. Your train cars also carry the nutrients from the food you eat, and this is necessary for muscle repair and recovery, but also joint health, bone health, supporting your central nervous system, and more. On its way back to the station, it carries out any excess and waste.

Your heart pumps at a rate determined by how hard it must work in order to ensure the train makes it all the way to the end of the tracks on time. If your heart can’t keep the train on schedule, it works harder to pump that train out of the station. Your heart squeezes harder, and lets go of that squeeze faster. This is what we call “high blood pressure.”

Your train tracks are sensitive to anything that messes with its schedule. Sometimes, too much cholesterol in your blood (not to be confused with the kinds of cholesterol that you eat, that’s a very different phenomenon) can turn into stuff that sticks to the insides of your blood vessels, and acts like trash left on your train tracks. It slows down your train, and makes your heart work harder to pump that train out of the station. Sometimes, you’ll also experience water weight gain that is so severe—often from overdoing it on the salt—that it puts pressure on your train, like it’s facing headwinds that are pushing it in reverse. Your heart has to work harder to push that train out of the station.

And, in some pregnancies, the fetus[es] are so heavy in the womb or the weight gain is such that the heart must work harder to get the train everywhere it needs to go. Sometimes, that which causes excessive weight gain in pregnancy also causes the increase in blood pressure. And, when the babies-to-be are delivered, the shock to the system is severe. This is preeclampsia.

It is so predictable that it’s jarring the way this isn’t being recognized. And, as earlier reporting has shown, it doesn’t matter who you are or how much money you have. It happened to Serena, it happened to Queen Bey, and it happened to Erica Garner. It could happen to any of us.

I love Bey. I love that she publicly discussed this. But now, it’s time to discuss health care in this country and the numerous lives on the losing end of what’s becoming a very scary battle. I’m thankful that Bey survived. But I’m also quietly mourning those who didn’t, and the babies who will grow up without them.

More on Preeclampsia and blood pressure:

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