By Ashley Randolph
I don’t know what it’s like to deliver a term baby. But, like many other African American women, I know the frustrations and fears that come with prematurity.
With each of my three premature births, I learned something.
When I became pregnant with my first son, I was a senior in college. I lived across the country from my family, and my pregnancy was hard. I had hyperemesis gravidarum, a condition that causes severe nausea, vomiting and weight loss. I felt like I was barely getting by. By not having a strong support system, I learned just how important they are.
Five years later, I was emotionally supported by my now husband through another difficult pregnancy. I was concerned about having a second preterm delivery. My doctor agreed and prescribed a medication that could help reduce that risk. When insurance denied it, I didn’t fight back. As a result, my first daughter was also born prematurely.
As I held her hand through the wires and tubes in the neonatal intensive care unit, I reflected on the lesson – and promised myself that, from that point forward, I would push harder to get what my baby needed.
With my third child came still more complications. I was hospitalized for months. But this time I knew to call on my support system and advocate for what my unborn daughter and I needed. She was born just shy of 37 weeks – a “late” preterm baby.
I grew and learned from each pregnancy. My experiences ultimately led me to establish GLO Preemies, an organization dedicated to helping other African American women overcome challenges like those I faced.
You see, my experience was difficult but not altogether unique. African American mothers are 1.6 times more likely than white mothers to give birth before reaching full term. And premature birth is the leading cause of death for African American babies.
Prematurity Awareness Month, November, is a good time to draw attention to disparities in pregnancy outcomes and educate others about programs that are working to address them. It’s my hope that GLO Preemies’ education, awareness and advocacy efforts can improve pregnancy outcomes for African American women.
Ashley Randolph is a is mother of three preemies, founder of GLO Preemies and co-founder of the Alliance for Black NICU Families.