Every pregnancy is as unique as the person experiencing it. As you become in tune with your body and yourself on the path towards expanding your family, be aware of the risk factors that might impact your pregnancy and health.
Due to a lifetime of navigating racism and sexism, Black women and birthing people experience negative health impacts (i.e. toxic stress) that can increase the risk of pregnancy complications. For Black women and birthing people, these elevated risks can lead to critical health issues for both birthing parent and baby.
Having a clear understanding of the challenges you may face is essential to advocating for yourself, being vocal about your needs and your experiences with your providers and support team.
Preeclampsia, hypertension, and gestational diabetes are three conditions that Black women and birthing people are more likely to experience throughout pregnancy, when compared to other groups. These serious health conditions can contribute to a higher incidence of maternal death.
All of this can feel overwhelming, but the data-driven guidance Ovia Health has tailored for you, can be a tool to help make your voice be heard so you are in control of your care. Although, there is an elevated risk, this does not mean you can’t have a healthy pregnancy and baby.
Preeclampsia causes high blood pressure in pregnancy, leading to life-threatening seizures in extreme cases. Many birthing people may never feel any of the symptoms of preeclampsia, including severe headaches, unusual swelling in the hands and feet, vision changes, and less frequent urination. Ovia Health’s in-app solutions can help you learn more about the symptoms and steps to take if you have concerns about a diagnosis.
Preeclampsia is usually diagnosed after the 20th week of pregnancy. Black women affected by the condition have typically been diagnosed in earlier stages of their pregnancy, which corresponds with an increased chance of complications.
Get in tune with your body and how you are feeling, keep track of any changes with Ovia Health’s tools created to help you through the pregnancy journey. Ovia Health Coaches can guide you in assessing how you are feeling, communicating your concerns to your healthcare team, and processing what you may experience if diagnosed.
High blood pressure or hypertension
Many women and birthing people have pre-existing health conditions that can lead to high-risk complications during pregnancy. High blood pressure or hypertension is a condition that disproportionately affects Black communities, with Black women being 46% more likely to experience the condition than any other group.
If you have hypertension, either diagnosed before pregnancy or developed during pregnancy, you should closely monitor your blood pressure and work with your providers to ensure that maintenance medications do not affect your pregnancy or baby. Check out Ovia’s Medication safety lookup tool to search for medications that are safe to take while pregnant.
What about diabetes?
Your body processes the food you eat into nutrients and energy. Diabetes occurs when your body cannot regulate the amount of glucose in your blood through its normal insulin production. Unlike Type 1 diabetes, which occurs in childhood, or Type 2 diabetes, which can occur at any age, gestational diabetes presents during pregnancy.
As part of your pregnancy care, you will undergo initial glucose level screenings to ensure you are within a normal range. You will be asked to take the screening between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy. Symptoms of gestational diabetes can include fatigue, increased urination, snoring, excessive thirst, and an increased weight gain for the birthing parent and baby.
If you’re at risk for gestational diabetes, your care team may suggest that you eat a balanced diet, stay active, monitor your sugar levels, and/or take medication to regulate your insulin. Ovia Health’s Daily self-care checklist can also give you ways to be intentional about caring for your mental health.
- “Working Together to Reduce Black Maternal Mortality.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. April 9, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/healthequity/features/maternal-mortality/index.html.
- Howell EA. Reducing Disparities in Severe Maternal Morbidity and Mortality. Clin Obstet Gynecol. 2018 Jun;61(2):387-399. doi: 10.1097/GRF.0000000000000349. PMID: 29346121; PMCID: PMC5915910.
- “High Blood Pressure during Pregnancy.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. May 6, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/pregnancy.htm.
- “Preeclampsia.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. March 19, 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/preeclampsia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355745.
- “Gestational Diabetes.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. August 26, 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gestational-diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20355339#:~:text=Gestational%20diabetes%20is%20diabetes%20diagnosed,pregnancy%20and%20your%20baby’s%20health.
- “Racial/Ethnic Differences in Diabetes Screening and Hyperglycemia among US Women after Gestational Diabetes.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. October 24, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2019/19_0144.htm.