Essence Wellness House panel discusses Black maternal health and mortality

Executive editor Danielle Cadet moderated a panel featuring 3 women who are fighting for women’s health

On March 26, 2023, Essence hosted the Wellness House event that consisted of a wide range of Black women educating the community about overall health in our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual lives. Danielle Cadet, the executive editor and VP of content at Essence, moderated a panel that included three women who educate daily to prevent maternal mortality.

The three panelists were Rev. Stacey L. Edwards, the founder of Fertility For Colored Girls; Tanika Gray Valbrun, founder of The White Dress Project; and Keisha Reaves, perinatal mental health therapist and clinical director of Push Thru Therapy.

The panelists shared their knowledge about the higher risks of maternal mortality for Black women, the impact of fibroids on fertility and maternity, and how to protect one’s mental health while trying to conceive, throughout pregnancy, and during postpartum.

Why are Black women at more risk of maternal mortality? 

Stacey Edwards: Couples do not always have insurance or financial access to be able to receive care. So, I think all of those things become links for us. Then we also have chronic diseases. So, whether you’re experiencing infertility, or you’re trying to get pregnant, many of us have issues with weight, issues with diabetes, and issues with hypertension. So, I think all of those things become links between all three that fall under the umbrella of women’s health, particularly Black women’s health.

Can you educate us more about fibroids?

Tanika Valbrun: So, fibroids are a noncancerous growth that can grow in and around the woman’s uterus, and they absolutely can impact fertility, [the] infertility journey, your journey to motherhood, and your mental health. One of the most important things about fibroids is where they are located. The real estate that fibroids can take up in your body is directly linked to how they can impact your fertility. You also want to know the size and the number that you have. Some of the symptoms with fibroids are heavy menstrual bleeding, bloating, always looking like you’re pregnant, frequent urination, pain with intercourse, and pain with your period.

How does mental health play a role in all of this? 

Keisha Reaves: So, a lot of people don’t know about this specialty of maternal mental health and it encompasses all the way from trying to conceive all the way through parenthood. Oftentimes, people who are trying to conceive can suffer from depression, anxiety, and also become very focused on the act of trying to conceive. So when working with clients, it’s helping them find the other areas of their life that they are fulfilled in, because trying to get pregnant can take over your day-to-day and the whole frontal lobe of your brain. Even down to intimacy, where sex is only about trying to get pregnant versus just the fun of sex.

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