Rolling out recently sat down with obstetrician-gynecologist Jacqueline “Dr. Jackie” Walters to discuss the importance of the Black community’s awareness of racial disparities in maternal health.
Racial disparities in maternal health: What does that mean for Black women?
We’ve heard the statistics: Black women are three to four times more likely to die due to a pregnancy complication. I had heard it and I just didn’t see the magnitude of it until recently. Before I even talked to Blue Cross Blue Shield, I reached out to my team. I really do have to be involved because we need a voice where women can relate to a doctor, but can also relate to a woman who understands what they’re saying and doing. I just want to be that voice.
What are some of the issues that affect Black women’s maternal health that are being ignored?
Well, if we take out your urban areas like Atlanta and some of the bigger cities, one issue is access to health care. If you go back to my hometown in Mississippi, there’s one doctor in that area … so they have no access to care. A lot of African American women have a lot of co-morbidities. Obesity is an issue. If you are morbidly obese, you should see a cardiologist. In small towns, they don’t have a cardiologist close by so you have to go three to four hours to see a cardiologist. Then that’s where we see a lot of women get in trouble.
What should expectant mothers know about about their maternal health?
You have to be your own best health advocate and we have to start talking. For example, Serena Williams, who you thought would have gotten the absolute best care ever because she’s this elite athlete, had to walk out of her room gasping for air to say she cannot breathe and insisted that the nurses listen to her. I teach women to not be aggressive, but be assertive about your health care. Start talking to your doctors and ask questions.
Tell us about your latest book, The Queen V.
Yes, I’ve written a book called The Queen V: Everything You Need to Know About Sex, Intimacy and Down There Health Care [about] the importance of knowing your vaginal personality. Obviously, the vagina doesn’t have [a] true personality, but it is about how you respond to your feminine and sex health. Knowing your personality will help you communicate with the right people and share what you need to share and protect yourself.
Dr. Jackie is a star of “Married to Medicine,” which airs Sundays at 9 p.m. EDT on Bravo.
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