Miriam Zoila Pérez: How Racism Harms Pregnant Women- and What Can Help?

Miriam Zoila Pérez is a writer, activist, and doula.  She authored The Radical Doula Guide and runs Radical Doula, a blog that focuses on the political side of being a doula.  She looks at how our identities can actually determine our health, especially for women, people of color, and members of the LGBT community.

In her recent TED talk, “How racism harms pregnant women- and what can help,” Miriam discusses how health can be affected by race and gender.  She focuses on stress and its harmful effects, such as the correlation between stress and heart disease and cancer.  In particular, how can stress affect a pregnant woman and a developing child?

Stress in pregnancy can lead to early labor, high blood pressure, and low infant birth weight.  While everyone experiences some type of stress, studies show that repeated stress is harmful.  The mere threat of discrimination can have a negative influence on your health.  African-American women, in particular, are affected by such stress.

She explains how, statistically, the mortality rate for mothers and their infants in the South mirrors that of Sub-Saharan Africa.  In the United States, black women are four times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than their white counterparts.  Their children are twice as likely to die in the first year of life.  They are two to three times more likely to be born too early or underweight.  She goes on to show how this is not about poverty or the inability to get healthcare.

Finding a solution

Miriam gives a possible solution to the problem, highlighting a supportive clinic that primarily caters to women of color.  This model has been a success and mirroring it may help combat the statistics.  “History has shown that people are incredibly resilient, and while we can’t eradicate racism or the stress that results from it overnight, we might just be able to create environments that provide a buffer to what people of color experience on a daily basis,” Miriam asserts.

Watch the full TED talk here:

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