By now, I'm sure you've heard all the reports circulating about black mothers dying.
Black women are dying at astronomically high rates compared to their white counterparts. In fact, the maternal mortality rate is three to four times higher among black women. And if you are a black woman that's never given birth, you're probably absolutely terrified at the thought of pregnancy and childbirth for that reason.
Those initial feelings of joy when we find out that we are expecting are now replaced with anxiety and a fear that nearly paralyzes us. Our concerns have shifted from whether or not we'll deliver a healthy baby to questions of if we'll make it out of the delivery room alive.
When I heard the story of Serena Williams' near-death experience after giving birth, it didn't surprise me. It also didn't surprise me that she knew exactly how to identify an epileptic embolism and notify her doctors before it was too late.
She's an athlete who has undergone multiple surgeries and faced multiple injuries. She knows her body at its best and she knows when it is momentarily failing her. But Serena's relationship with her own body served as a life-saving reminder that knowledge of self is most important kind to have. Right now, the narrative is that no one knows why black women are dying during childbirth. But for Serena and any other black woman who has been pregnant and seen a doctor, we know exactly why.
Doctors are not pregnancy advocates.
They see patients, assess risk, and prescribe a course of action. If you're Black, they tend to see you quicker, assess you without investigation and prescribe courses of action that minimize our options and influence you to make risky choices. Epidurals, induced labor, fetal monitoring - all things that are suggested by doctors as normal procedure but are actually linked to a host of complications that put women and their baby at risk. When it was me in the stirrups, I was shocked by how quickly my desire to have a natural childbirth was laughed off by my doctor.
I can remember having not one but two seperate male doctors tell me that having a child is "risky" and painful and I would do best to give birth in a hospital in case of emergency. It was in that moment that I realized had I not already read three books about pregnancy and childbirth and spoken to half a dozen midwives that I might have even believed them. Instead, I walked out of their office both times insisting that I knew my body better than that did. I've read Serena's birth story over and my biggest takeaway is that we are capable of anything we put our mind to - but we do have to put our mind to it.
If having children is anywhere on your list of life plans, arm yourself with as much understanding about birth as you can - it could save your life.
Pregnancy and Childbirth Are a Marathon
My midwife told me this and it always stuck with me. "You're training for a marathon," she said after advising me to pack on the protein. This is something I think a lot of women tend to forget or not be told. Childbirth is not a test you can cram for, the preparation begins as soon as those two lines show up. Talk to a nutritionist to design a meal plan for the duration of your pregnancy. If you can't afford a nutritionist, read up on what foods support your body during each trimester.
The "eating for two" approach to prenatal nutrition might be fun, but it can also land you on bed rest. But gestational diabetes isn't the worst side effect of bad eating. Giving birth is a very athletic process. It involved pushing and breathing and incredible stamina. Being strong and energized could be the difference between an easy birth and a difficult one. Stay fit now and through your entire pregnancy.
The More You Know
One of the best decisions I made was taking a birthing class with my partner. Checking in every week with a midwife and interacting with other expectant couples eased a lot of my stress and answered all of my "how does labor feel" questions. It was also a chance for my son's father to get educated on how to support me during the entire process. If the dad isn't in the picture, choose a friend or family member to be your partner - the point is to have a support system.
Look online for birth plan templates and fill it out with every detail of how you want your birth to play out. Filling out this plan will help guide you to questions you ask your doctor or midwife. Learn as much as you can about pregnancy so you have a full understanding of what to expect, what's normal and what signals a problem. My favorites were A Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer, The Mindful Mom-to-Be and Birthing Justice: Black Women, Pregnancy and Childbirth.
Don't Believe the Pain Hype
Does childbirth hurt? Of course it does. But so does motherhood and there's no epidural for getting through 4 am feedings or potty training. I consider the pain I endured to be the prerequisite for raising a human person. Especially when I came to learn the realities of epidurals. For example, an epidural will cause your blood pressure to drop suddenly. After an epidural is placed your ability to move around is severely limited which can put your baby in distress as it tries to make its way through the birth canal. As I went through the stages of delivery I moved from place to place - bed, bath, squatting on the floor - whatever helped my son safely get himself into position.
Find Your People
A lot of us received our first education about having babies from our mothers. Usually, whatever route our mothers took with childbirth is the same one we are inclined to take as well. My mother, who also have a natural birth for me and my sister, told me, "Eh, it's not so bad" when I asked her what labor felt like. Thanks, mom.
I was so thankful that I lived in the information age and could easily find a little online community of women who were going through exactly what I was. Websites like Baby Center allow you to join micro-communities of women who share your due date. Find support among other women who have similar goals so you can encourage each other through the process. Support makes a world of difference.
Hospitals Are Not the Best Option
I tell every black woman that will listen to me, do not have your children in a hospital unless you have known complications. Not only are hospital births more expensive than home births or birth centers, they also carry a higher risk.
Most hospitals have a C-section rate that far exceeds what it should. Surgery should be a last ditch effort to save mom and baby but instead it tends to be the go-to move as soon as there is a sign of trouble. I encourage women to consider remaining under the care of a midwife and doula, as opposed to an Obstetrician to receive one-on-one, personalized informed prenatal care. A midwife essentially takes the role as your primary caregiver throughout your pregnancy and can even provide postpartum gynecological care. I saw my midwife instead of an OB-Gyn once I was under her care. She could refer me to a specialist, send me for bloodwork or tests as needed and she constantly offered me words of empowerment and helped me make informed choices.
Our appointments were as long as they needed to be and I never felt rushed. The doula takes a different role, she's more involved in the actual birth process. She was an emotional and mental support to me, provided advice, and was more hands on during the birth.
While I was in labor with my son, my midwife told me that I had to resist pushing for about 45 minutes. She said despite my intense contractions that my son's head wasn't far down enough. Just hearing that made my heart race. Trying not to push was the hardest part of the entire experience.
But my doula came in, rubbed my back and told me to take in deep breathes and let out low baritone moans and I was able to relax. When laboring women are told there's a problem, we panic and when we panic we are giving the hospital the perfect excuse to offer up drugs and surgery in our most desperate moment. Websites like Midwife.org and ZocDoc can help you kick off your search and most midwives can recommend doulas once you're under their care.
As black women, we know the world is constantly trying to give us the short end of the stick. It's a reality we take with us into boardrooms and classrooms. We have to be just as diligent when planning for pregnancy and birth. The numbers we see dancing across headlines and on television screens paint a grim picture of what black childbirth looks like.
But understand this - the system is failing us, our bodies are not.
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Featured image by Shutterstock
Originally published on January 23, 2018
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This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
The Libra woman and Aries man are the divine feminine and divine masculine, coming together as one. The love compatibility between these two is one for the books. These two are opposite signs, however, their differences tend to complement each other well. This is a dynamic relationship where they know how to have a lot of fun together, but also aren’t afraid to deal with the more serious stuff that comes with a relationship.
The Libra woman is looking for her equal in love, someone who is willing to put in the same effort she is, and the Aries man sees Libra as someone he is willing to do that with.
The Love Compatibility Of A Libra Woman And An Aries Man
What attracts a Libra woman and an Aries man to each other?
There is a magnet of attraction pulling these two together, and things tend to move pretty fast in this relationship. The Libra woman is always open to love and her charming nature rarely has any challenges here. The Aries man fights for his independence and doesn’t sacrifice that unless he is completely enamored with someone.
Once the Aries man catches the eye of the Libra woman, he is typically the one to make the first move and this instantly wins the approval of Libra.
These two feel like they have known each other forever when they meet, and this spark between them doesn’t die down easily.
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What is the relationship like between a Libra woman and an Aries man?
The relationship between the Libra woman and the Aries man is one of balance and excitement. The Aries man tends to take on the more dominant role in this relationship and the Libra woman tends to be the more receptive one. Aries is ruled by masculine Mars, and Libra is ruled by feminine Venus. They understand they are coming from two completely different worlds, yet they also instinctively feel this underlying connection to each other and like they could be something each other needs in their lives.
The Libra woman can rely on the Aries man, and the Aries man never has to ask for the love that Libra already knows he needs.
This is a couple that is often reading each other’s minds and wanting to do a lot of the same things. However, not everything is rainbow in this relationship as well, and there are some major differences they have to overcome to make things work. One argument can lead to an explosion between these two, and addressing things when they come up rather than sweeping them under the rug, will be needed to make this relationship long-term.
What is the sex like between a Libra woman and an Aries man?
The sex between a Libra woman and an Aries man is adventurous. These are two cardinal signs with plenty of energy and stamina to keep things exciting in the bedroom. There tends to be a good give and take in this relationship, and their yin and yang energy benefits them when it comes to their sex life.
There is electricity felt between the two of them in this area of their life, and their power of attraction to each other is strong. These are two people who will want to do a lot of things together, including exploring sexually together.
The Aries man will have to be careful with being overly aggressive, however, as the soft Libra woman may not like this energy- it will completely depend on the two individuals at hand. The Libra woman wants to ease into things, the Aries man wants to get going right away. Learning about each other's bodies, and energy, and reading each other’s cues will help with this.
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What makes a relationship between a Libra woman and an Aries man work?
These two genuinely like each other, and that basis is a key factor for success in any relationship. The Aries man is straight to the point, direct, and inspired. The Libra woman admires these characteristics in others, as she is often herself finding her balance in this type of energy as well. Neither sign is overly emotional in a way that turns them off, and they both require a lot of the same things in a committed relationship. They want honesty, fun, good communication, passion, and to be moving towards a common goal together.
The Libra woman and Aries man don’t have a problem being real with each other and this is something they really value within the relationship. They are both very charming, and there is plenty of flirtation and attraction to keep this relationship going. Aries being the protector they are, Libra finds a sense of safety and ease in this energy, and like they have found their match. Overall, this is a well-balanced relationship and one where they don’t have a problem when it comes to compatibility or chemistry in the relationship.
What may cause a Libra woman and an Aries man to break up?
Libra is the lover, Aries is the fighter, and this energy may be tiring for the both of them after time. The Libra woman can be passive to a fault, and the Aries man who is not evolved, may take advantage of that. She will need to be careful with putting Aries’ needs above her own, creating resentment later down the road. The Aries man loves a challenge, and the Libra woman would be up for that game for a little bit, but if she is not being met in the middle, she will begin to look for other places. These two can have a difficult time keeping the peace in the relationship, and there could be a lot of arguments and disagreements here if they both aren’t willing to put their egos or self-pleasing attitudes to the side.
The Libra woman and Aries man are both more sensitive than they appear or come off as. They are also not necessarily the type to dive deep into their emotions and express them to others, even in their relationships. However, this energy can keep the relationship to a surface level than what is needed to progress and grow the relationship, and a sense of openness is required for this couple to work. Libra needs romance, she wants to be wowed. Aries needs to remember this and to always consider her love language.
Overall, this is a successful pairing. They will have their fair share of challenges in the relationship, but nothing they can’t overcome if they are willing to. The trouble will come in when it comes to the longevity of the relationship, keeping Aries excited and Libra in love. However, all in all, there is more power, attraction, and love to keep this relationship together rather than apart. No relationship is perfect, but this one is a little more blessed than most.
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