5 Ways Black Women Can Better Advocate For Themselves At The Doctor

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When it comes to maternal health, taking care of yourself can truly mean life or death for Black women in the United States, who are three times more likely to die from childbirth or pregnancy-related causes.

Two recent stories that hit this statistic home for us were that of YouTube beauty influencer Jessica Pettway and former Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader Krystal Anderson. Pettway died of stage 3 cervical cancer after being misdiagnosed for fibroids. Anderson died from sepsis shortly after delivering a stillborn. Both women could have easily been one of us or someone we know. These unnecessary tragedies are a wake-up call to many of us who feel unheard in what should be one of the safest, most vulnerable spaces you can be in.

“As an African American woman, presenting as a patient, I certainly have experienced stereotyping and not being given thorough information in the healthcare setting, but it is by no means a regular occurrence,”  Dr. Dawn Ericsson, the Chief Medical Officer at Age Rejuvenation recalls.

She continued, “At times I’ve needed to inform healthcare members that I am a physician and I have questioned processes and procedures. I recognize that I have the advantage of understanding many things about the healthcare system. I often find myself saying, “Wow, this can be pretty scary when you do not know what questions to ask.”

The high rate of Black maternal mortality is non-discriminatory of social status, as Dr. Erkeda DeRouen, Founder of The Pace Makerz explains.

“We live in a time where Black women are gaslit, misdiagnosed, and sometimes provided inequitable care,” says DeRouen. She added, “This can happen regardless of socioeconomic status,” referring to Beyonce and Serena Williams,” both celebrity women had experienced pregnancy hardships with their children.

We spoke with both Ericsson and DeRouen on how Black women could better advocate for their health.

1. Seek sources you can trust

“Seeking accredited medical providers recommended by family and friends can lead to better connections and communication during appointments,” Ericsson suggests. “Some people find that seeing a provider from their community is helpful in being heard.”

2. Prepare for your appointment in advance

DeRouen says, “Have a list of your medications, allergies, and medical problem history. Also, be able to tell the story of what concerns you in a manner that is easy to follow. We want to hear the who, what, when, how, what makes it better/worse, and what you’ve tried to address before. Be detailed. It helps clinicians think through the process of what is going on.”

3. Don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion

 “Remember that if your medical condition is not improving or treatment recommendations are questionable, look things up, ask questions, and consider a second opinion,” says Ericsson. “You have the right to get other medical opinions. For many conditions, there are many different treatment options. You should be able to discuss and sort out the option that works best for you. You have the right to decline treatments if they do not sit well with you, but you should always be fully informed.”

4. If something doesn’t feel right, ask why

There are a lot of women who leave medical appointments with more questions than they should,” says DeRouen. “Ask them. Come to the office with a list. The way that the healthcare system is set up, your clinician may not be able to address all of them in one visit, but you can work together to make sure you get them addressed.

5. Speak up

If you feel like you are not being heard or mistreated,” says DeRouen. “There are mechanisms in place at healthcare organizations to escalate complaints. Try reaching out to a patient advocate or social worker. Do not suffer in silence.”

Ericsson adds, “Patients are their own best advocates.”

Read the original article on Royaltee.

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