No one knows your needs or your body like you do. This is true everywhere, even at the doctor’s office. For Black women, implicit bias in the medical field often leaves them feeling unheard and ignored by medical providers. Statistics show that Black women are 2.5 times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related crisis than white women. Therefore, when speaking to a doctor, knowing how to advocate for you can be a matter of life and death. 

Choose Your Practitioner Carefully

Even before Black women enter the doctor’s office, there should be careful consideration of choosing a practitioner that looks like you or comes highly reviewed by other black birthing individuals. The Irth app is a great place to start that research. 

Ndidiamaka Amutah-Onukagha is the director and founder of the Center for Black Maternal Health and Reproductive Justice. She says moms-to-be should feel comfortable advocating for themselves from the very start when entering a doctor’s office.

“Black women should feel safe and listened to from the first interaction,” Amutah-Onukagha said. “And if they don’t, find a new provider.”

If Something Doesn’t Feel Right, Speak Up 

“Black women know their bodies best,” Amutah-Onukagha said. “It is important to listen to what your body is telling you and say exactly what you’re feeling.” 

Keep complete records of your medical history and that of your family, and be detailed in your description of any symptoms you’re experiencing, as this will help better zero in on the possible root cause. 

Work With a Doula or Midwife

Another thing to consider is having a certified doula or trained midwife as part of your pregnancy, labor, and delivery care team. Amutah-Onukagha emphasizes that it can be a game changer. 

“They’re patient-centered and can serve as the voice in the room when the expectant mother feels voice-less,” she said.

Voice Your Concerns

Finally, if you feel like you’re being dismissed due to bias, report your concerns to the hospital. It is your right as a patient to receive quality care with respect. 

“In an ideal world, patients and practitioners work together for the best health outcomes,” Amutah-Onukagha said.