By SHAVON ARLINE-BRADLEY
Not a day goes by, or a moment for that matter, that I’m not thinking about the little brown baby growing inside my belly. I’ve spent the better part of the last nine months taking pre-natal vitamins, watching my body go through crazy changes and getting to know my baby’s likes and dislikes, even from the womb.
I know that my little guy likes it when I eat cheese. He is also a fan of gospel music and the smell of freshly baked cookies. Among the things that he doesn’t fare too well are: cold weather, when I stand for too long, the Dallas Cowboys (we’re an Eagle’s household) and yes, the Black woman’s life of never-ending STRESS.
At the beginning of our pregnancy, my husband and I promised each other that we would do everything in our power to ensure that we gave birth to a happy, healthy baby. That promise was rooted in the fact that, unlike so many African-American families, we have access to high-quality health care.
As the senior director of health programs for the NAACP, I know there are black families across the country working to make sure that their brown babies are afforded every opportunity to thrive. I also know that the ability to thrive cannot happen without sustained access to health care that starts while the baby is still in the womb.
From the months of pre-natal care to the delivery costs, the price of pregnancy is expensive. But our brown babies cannot afford to go without coverage.
The data shows that uninsured pregnant women receive fewer prenatal care services than insured women and are more likely to experience adverse maternal outcomes such as pregnancy-related hypertension and placental abruption.
Even more alarming is the fact that African American women are much more likely than white women to die of pregnancy-related complications. The Centers for Disease Control reports that in 2002 more than 2 1/2 times as many African American newborn babies died as white newborns. While the causes of high Black infant mortality rates are complex and hard to explain, many of them could have been prevented through good prenatal care.
Like so many of you, my pregnancy has consisted of several visits to the doctor’s office for prenatal exams, routine ultrasounds and other screenings for potential pressure problems, diabetes and genetic disorders. There is no way that I could’ve fit the bills for all of these things without coverage. This is why issues like Marketplace Enrollment and Medicaid expansion are so important for families in this current economic climate.
If you do not currently have healthcare coverage, enrolling in your state’s health care means that you and your brown baby will have access to some key preventive services that are crucial to you and your new addition’s health. If you do not have a state based exchange, get started by logging on to www.healthcare.gov or call 1-800-218-3596. If your state has its own exchange, you will be directed to the appropriate location.
Let’s take the first and most important step in raising the next generation of happy and healthy brown babies. Get covered, it is a blessing, just like our babies.
Shavon Arline-Bradley is the senior director of health programs for the NAACP. The public health advocate and former track and field athlete, who has 10 years of public health experience, is married to Andrew Brandley; they are expecting their first child this winter. Reach her on Twitter at @shavonarline or Facebook at Shavon Arline Bradley.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.