Bearing the Burden of Injustice: Black Maternal Mortality

Mother and babyWhen it comes to maternal mortality, American women don’t all live in the same country. While white women live in Qatar, black women live in Mongolia.

Maternal mortality is death related to complications from pregnancy or childbirth. Most of us don’t come from a time or place where the prospect of dying in childbirth is a tangible possibility — in the past century, as medicine has advanced, maternal mortality rates have plummeted.


To raise healthy families, we need access to general and reproductive health care, including preventive care, prenatal care, and maternity care.


The United States, though, hasn’t come as far as would be expected. Although its wealth should have put it on par with other developed nations like Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, and those in Scandinavia, women in these countries fare far better than those in the United States. So do women in Libya, Bosnia and Herzogovina, Bulgaria, and Kazakhstan, indicating that national priorities — and not necessarily national wealth — are key to ensuring maternal health.

The United States’ high maternal mortality rate is heartbreaking no matter how you look at it, but is even worse for women of color. African-American women are 3.5 times more likely to die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth than white women. Between 2011 and 2013, the maternal mortality rate for white women was 12.7 deaths per 100,000 live births. Comparing that to 2015 data from the World Health Organization (WHO), that rate puts white women’s maternal mortality on par with mothers in Qatar and Bahrain, two wealthy Persian Gulf nations. African-American women, however, suffered 43.5 deaths per 100,000 live births, putting their maternal mortality on par with those of Turkmenistan, Brazil, and Mongolia. Continue reading

Book Club: Her Body, Our Laws

By 2014, law professor Michelle Oberman was no stranger to El Salvador. She had already spent four years making research trips to the Central American country, but that June she would need a local guide during her travels. An activist had volunteered to accompany her on the interview she needed to conduct, a task that required a two-and-a-half-hour trip outside the city to an area that is not well mapped — in fact, to a village where there are “no signs or numbers” to help visitors find their way among the cinder-block houses and the patchwork of land where the clucks and lowing of livestock punctuate the silence.


Paid maternity leave, monthly child allowances, and affordable day care and health care decrease demand for abortion.


Once in the village, it took Oberman and her guide an additional 45 minutes to find the house they needed to visit. Inside, a curtain was all that separated the main room from a small bedroom in the back. A bucket and outdoor basin served as a shower, and an outhouse completed the bathroom facilities. The living conditions there were not uncommon — not in a country where roughly 40 percent of the population lives in poverty.

That poverty was both the cause and consequence of a conflict between left-wing rebels and government forces that lasted from 1979 to 1992. In many ways, that conflict set the stage for the abortion war in El Salvador, the subject of Oberman’s recently published book, Her Body, Our Laws: On the Frontlines of the Abortion War from El Salvador to Oklahoma (Beacon Press, 2018).

From Civil War to Abortion War

In the early 1980s, the small republic of El Salvador was in the grip of civil war, while in the U.S., debates raged over the emerging Sanctuary Movement that was aiding Salvadoran and other Central American refugees. The movement began in 1981, when Quaker activist Jim Corbett and Presbyterian Pastor John Fife, both of Tucson, pledged to “protect, defend, and advocate for” the many people fleeing warfare and political turmoil in El Salvador and neighboring countries. Tucson was at the forefront of the movement as refugees crossed through Mexico and arrived at the Arizona border. Continue reading

Men’s Health Is No Joke

Father And Son In Park With FootballThe week leading up to Father’s Day is Men’s Health Week. One of the biggest issues when it comes to men’s health is that it just isn’t taken seriously. I realized this while I was spending time with some of my guy friends one day.

The group of friends I was with all work at a warehouse. They fit the stereotypical “dude” type that would rather wrap some duct tape and a few popsicle sticks around a broken finger instead of going to the doctor.


You can take control of your health at any age!


One of them was talking about a recent checkup he had. We are all in our early 20s and we’re reaching that turning point where our physical exams get a bit more … well, physical. He mentioned that he had a prostate exam and STD screening, and the rest of the guys in my group teased him about it. It was all in good fun, but a moment later it struck me that they were all making jokes about an examination that could potentially save his life.

I have overheard my female friends discuss things like seeing an ob/gyn or getting a physical exam, and while they occasionally joke about it, they do it in a very lighthearted manner that couldn’t possibly leave anyone embarrassed.

While my guy friends’ jokes themselves were not harmful, they indicated an attitude of dismissal that leaves them far less likely than women to see a doctor for preventive care and regular checkups.  Continue reading

What Is Preeclampsia?

Prenatal care is important for a healthy pregnancy.

Prenatal care is important for a healthy pregnancy.

May is Preeclampsia Awareness Month, and to be fully honest I didn’t know a thing about what preeclampsia was until I sat down to write this blog post. What I found out is alarming.

Preeclampsia is a blood pressure disorder and it affects 2 to 8 percent of pregnant women. It belongs to a group known as hypertensive disorders, which is the leading cause of maternal deaths. As a group, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, which includes preeclampsia as well as other disorders, account for 11.1 percent of pregnancy-related deaths in this country.


Prenatal care from a trusted ob/gyn is crucial!


Symptoms of preeclampsia can include a constant headache, belly pain under the ribs on the right side, swelling (legs, hands, and feet), decreased urination, protein in your urine, nausea with vomiting, and vision changes such as temporary blindness. In extreme cases, when preeclampsia develops into eclampsia, it is characterized by high blood pressure and seizures. Continue reading

Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does, Part 23: Preconception Counseling for a Healthy, Informed Pregnancy

Welcome to the latest installment of “Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does,” a series on Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona’s blog that highlights Planned Parenthood’s diverse array of services — the ones Jon Kyl never knew about.

pregnancyFew moments in life are as important and complex as when a woman makes the decision of whether and when to have children. There are many considerations to take into account when planning to conceive, many of which can affect not only the baby, but the mother as well.

Preconception counseling, a service of Planned Parenthood Arizona, can provide those who wish to conceive with valuable information about their own health, suggestions about how to best manage their wellness for pregnancy, and education about a range of outcomes (including the possibility of miscarriage). Preconception counseling can assist you in creating an environment focused on optimal health for both you and your future child.

These counseling services include:

  • targeted medical history with focus on teratogenic exposures, ethnic background, and family history
  • social history with focus on risk factors for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), tobacco, alcohol, and street drug use
  • history of chronic illnesses
  • physical exam
  • labs as indicated (STDs, diabetes screening, etc.)
  • genetic counseling referrals as indicated
  • immunization review
  • folic acid utilization
  • review of current medications and possible hazardous exposures

The above list might seem long and detailed, but upon closer examination, you might not know what all of these things mean. What are teratogenic exposures? What does folic acid have to do with a healthy pregnancy? Let’s look at some of these topics in more depth. Continue reading

Women’s Health Week: Making Time for You and Your Health!

yogaThe following guest post comes to us via Stasee McKeny, Planned Parenthood Arizona’s community engagement intern.

Mother’s Day kicks off National Women’s Health Week (May 11 to 17), a week dedicated to empowering women to make health a priority in their lives.


After celebrating Mother’s Day, make health a priority throughout Women’s Health Week!


Making health a priority isn’t always easy for women. Women are more likely than men to avoid getting necessary health care because of the cost — 30 percent of insured women didn’t fill a prescription, 21 percent didn’t see a specialist, 24 percent skipped medical test treatment or follow-up, and 27 percent had a medical problem but didn’t see a health care provider. Affording health care is significantly more difficult for women who not only make less money than their male counterparts, but also use more health care services, like 12 months of birth control. Luckily, with health care reform, these disparities are slowly changing. Close to 27 million women with private health insurance gained expanded access to preventive health care services with no cost-sharing.

More women than ever now have access to affordable health care services and there is no better time to take advantage of this. During National Women’s Health Week, women are encouraged to do a number of things — whether it is making an appointment with a health care provider for a well-woman exam or deciding to eat healthy and exercise.

Why does National Women’s Health Week matter to Planned Parenthood Arizona? Planned Parenthood Arizona is the largest nonprofit reproductive health care provider in Arizona, and has close to 60,000 visits each year from women for a variety of preventive health care services, including life-saving cancer screenings, breast exams, contraception, sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment and, now, primary care. Planned Parenthood works to provide affordable, honest, compassionate care to ensure that women are able to lead healthier lives.

This year, you can celebrate National Women’s Health Week with Planned Parenthood Arizona — and enjoy five fun fitness events in two cities.

In Scottsdale, PPAZ is partnering up with a fabulous new local yoga studio, Funke Yoga.  Funke Yoga is adding three classes to their schedule during this week. The proceeds from the classes will go to Planned Parenthood Arizona to ensure we can continue to provide affordable health care services to women. Take the time out of your busy schedule and join Funke Yoga and Planned Parenthood for an evening to yourself. Reserve your spot today — space is limited!

In Yuma, PPAZ is hosting two free Zumba Classes on Thursday nights: May 8 and May 15. These classes will be held at Yuma Private Industry Council, MLK Youth Career Center, 300 S. 13th Ave. from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sunset Community Health Center will be there to provide blood pressure checks and there will be a raffle for fantastic prizes. Find more details here.