Black Women of Brazil

The site dedicated to Brazilian women of African descent

Racism begins at pregnancy: A series of reports addresses the reality of pregnant black women, the main victims of obstetric violence


O racismo começa na gravidez

Note from BW of Brazil: In Brazil, there are certain realities that must be dealt with regardless of how uncomfortable the facts make people feel. For example, it is a fact that Brazil is a very violent country. But it is also a fact that this violence disproportionately affects the Afro-Brazilian population. In terms of racial diversity, Brazil is one of the most diverse countries in the world. But it is also a fact that we rarely see this diversity in the nation’s mainstream media. Another fact is that the nation lacks the medical infrastructure to serve its population of 204 million people adequately and equally. Which is one of the reasons the government implemented a program to attract doctors from Cuba to address the shortage of qualified physicians. And yet another fact is that during pregnancy, black women are at more risk to suffer complications due to their race and medical negligence. As such, one could say that racism in Brazil in fact begins during pregnancy and continues throughout the life of those who are considered Afro-Brazilian. These facts and experiences are the topic of our ongoing series of reports on health care inequality in Brazil. 

Racism begins at pregnancy

A series of reports addresses the reality of pregnant black women, the main victims of obstetric violence in the state

By Renata Coutinho

Maternal mortality among preta (black) and parda (brown) women is seven times greater than in white women, with 70.5% of all registered

Brazilians historically neglected. Even the majority in several indicators, such as populational and those who point to the need for certain types of assistance, blacks continue to suffer to achieve basic rights. In health, the lack of preparation of professionals and institutional racism lead pregnant women to really suffer from the waiting room to the operating table. In schools, children and adolescents are faced with the lack of acceptance of their culture, their religion and their hair, which has culminated in alarming dropout rates. In the labor market, more barriers are imposed by veiled prejudice: lower wages and the sentence of only occupying spaces for those with less qualification. In the series Questão de Pele (Issues of Skin), published from today until Tuesday, the Folha de Pernambuco shows stories of people who witnessed early on the effects of racial inequalities and who made of their lives a banner to fight against discrimination. Texts are by Luiz Filipe Freire, Renata Coutinho and Tatiana Notaro. Photos and video by Leo Motta.

Coupled with discrimination of sex, race produces adverse effects on the health of pregnant black women. Racism results in obstetric violence, death and pain. And exposes the “lack of assistance of color”. The maternal mortality among them is seven times higher than in white women. In the state, 70.5% of gestational deaths were of pretas and pardas according to data from the research “Nascer no Brasil” (Born in Brazil), the largest national survey about labor and birth, held in 2013. The causes of loss of life are varied, but reflect a historical neglect of prevalent diseases in this population, such as sickle cell anemia, hypertension and diabetes II. They denounce institutionalized prejudice in health.

The study revealed that 25% of them have at risk pregnancies, but they couldn’t get medical care at a referral center. Vaginal delivery is undergone by more than 60% of black women. The presence of accompaniment during the process is low, 16%. Privacy during labor, clarity of explanations and participation in decisions about birth is almost nonexistent.

“Prejudice is blatant and begins prenatally. The racist ideology doesn’t care about the specifics of the black woman,” attests the representative of the Comitê Técnico da Saúde da População Negra (Technical Committee of the Health of the Black Population) connected to the Ministério da Saúde (Ministry of Health or MS) and member of the Articulação de Mulheres Negras Brasileiras (Articulation of Black Brazilians Women), Vera Baroni, who reports: Although the MS advocates conducting at least seven visits before delivery, 33% of black women make just one to five visits.

Another question she points out as serious is the failure to achieve a hemoglobin electrophoresis test – she identifies sickle cell anemia and care for the pregnant woman should be expanded, if the disease is identified. “It’s obligatory. But it’s not done. In Pernambuco, for example, only the cities of Recife and Olinda make the examination in prenatal. However it is still necessary that the physician requests it. And often the professional thinks it’s unnecessary.” For Vera Barroni, there is a general negligence, even of public officials in enforcing the National Policy on Comprehensive Health of the Black Population.

The coordinator of the Política de Saúde da População Negra (Health Policy for the Black Population) of Recife, Sony Santos, makes the same assessment of the scenario. But she argues that local governments have worked to stop racism. “Our orientation is that the professional already requests the electrophoresis certification exam on the first visit and keeps an attentive look at the specifics of race. It is our challenge, as well as several cities, to combat unequal treatment that leaves the black woman in a vulnerable situation,” she confirmed.

Sony Santos speaks about the health of the black population

Sony Santos speaks about the health of the black population

Teacher Lindacy Assis, 46, knows this whole scenario up close. “Institutional racism is perverse. It is within medicine, which is white. Where there is no prospect of working with questions of gender and race,” she noted. A carrier of sickle cell anemia – a hereditary and genetic blood disease that alters red blood cells – Lindacy knew the risks that a pregnancy in her condition would bring. So she was stunned when she discovered she was pregnant at 22.

Successive threats of abortion, crises of pain and ignorance of doctors about taking care of a pregnant woman with sickle cell occurs throughout the entire pregnancy. “We feel a lack of specialists. I understand that it’s precisely because of racism. Because the disease is prevalent in the black population,” she said. During childbirth neglect remained. She spent more than 12 hours with her water broken, being forced by professionals to have a vaginal delivery when the recommendation for a patient in her condition would be a C-section.

“It’s historic and cultural discrimination of that by being black a woman can handle pain. So between doing a cesarean section on a white woman and a black woman, we’re put to the side. That’s what happened to me,” she recalled. The teacher went on to look into the health of black woman with sickle cell, is an activist in the Movimento Negro (black movement) and is writing a book that will earn the name Mulheres de Foice (Women of Sickle).

Wheezing, difficulty standing and dizziness. Severe pain due to a necrosis in the femur. This is how we find Vanessa Ferreira, 29, pregnant with twins and having sickle cell. She is in her second pregnancy. In the first a vaginal delivery was attempted until the last moment, when in an emergency she was operated on. “I had no strength. I didn’t have admission and thought I was going to die. The doctor didn’t even know that I had sickle cell disease, until my mother insisted. Health (care) often times is not prepared to receive a black woman,” she said.

Source: Folhape

3 comments on “Racism begins at pregnancy: A series of reports addresses the reality of pregnant black women, the main victims of obstetric violence

  1. Anthony Thomas (@djfourmoney)
    September 22, 2015

    Is this a function of racism or poverty? Sickle-Cell is prevalent in people of African decent and as was mentioned, the last person didn’t even know she had it until he mother demanded she get checked.

    The Black population of Brazil is mostly in poverty correct? So that means they only have access to the public health care system. One thing I do know about from my research about Latin America in general. If your poor even if you have access to public health care, it’s often poor, under funded, overburdened and under staffed.

    Are you comparing apples with apples? IE, if you claim that Black women are forced to have vaginal births more than so-called “White” Brazilians is more of a function of the myth that Blacks can handle pain easier than those of European decent? Or is that more of a function again of poverty. How many Brazilians of European decent are exposed to the public health system. If so then are they using public hospitals in Fortaleza or in Florianopolis?

    According to a contact I have in Brazil, the public hospitals (and schools for that matter) in Florianopolis is more than acceptable, well functioning and well funded.

    This seems to me that just like in the United States, the racism experienced by Black people is more of a function of POVERTY, not racism. You’ll find in history especially here, Irish escaping the potato famine experienced much of the same bigotry you claim as racism. They were subjected to more dangerous working conditions, especially when constructing the Empire State Building for example. They were subjected to poor areas of the major cities, were not well paid for the jobs they did and were victims of violence.

    I am not trying to equate things here. What I am trying to point out is that much of the problems experienced by Blacks in Western Culture is a symptom of structural racism/inequality. The system discriminates against anybody who is of a darker skin tone than the dominate culture and those who come from poor background/other side of the tracks.

    Thing change dramatically when you become apart of the establishment IE either become middle class (by Western standards, that is the lower Rich in much of Latin America) or gain status/wealth. Is Pele subjected to the majority of what is experienced by other Blacks in Brazil? Of course not and that is a function of the legacy he built in the 1960’s-1970’s. But Pro Blacks like you love to call Pele on the mat for not speaking out more on structural racism when he didn’t experience the same type of racism poor Blacks face. He may have when he was younger but like Micheal Jordan, he has transcended his race, he just known as one of the world’s best soccer/football player the world has ever produced.

    Jordan rarely speaks out on racial issue and I wish the Pro Black establishment would quit trying to force them to speak about it when they have no desire too.

    This blog continues to point the finger at the entirety of the European decent population and ask them not to be racist when that simply doesn’t work. Go watch the video of representatives from Black Lives matter had to chance to speak with Hilary Clinton.

    All they kept coming back too is making Whites admit to racism in the US. It won’t work, it doesn’t work and you have to try a different tactic. ITS SIMPLY NOT WORKING.

    • bamabrasileira
      September 22, 2015

      LAWD this bitch again…

      If you are convinced that racism doesn’t really exist, or that virtually all Black movements are in vain, I am not sure why you keep coming back to this website. I think it’s because – deep down – you know you are incorrect in your assumptions. What isn’t working is trying to convince people who experience racism all the time, that it doesn’t exist. If it does not exist for you you, or if you think that Black media should not bring these issues to the forefront, why not stop reading what they have to say? (That’s a rhetorical question, by the way, as we all know that you CAN’T stop reading these sites because you know that what they are saying is true)

      • yep_basically
        January 1, 2016

        yeah he hates black people and especially black women and he follow Tommy Sotomayer who hates black women also i’m pretty sure he hates poor black people and enjoys distancing his self from blackness and like validation from white people especially white women men like are annoying to be around especially when you’re a young black girl because they’ll nver really admit to hating black women/girls and just disguise it as “concern for our futures” or they never want to examine the abuse and violence black men enact on any non-white, non-men person around them i grew up uncles,cousins,and brother who hates black women and blackness and i would have rather been homeless than experience any of that shit.

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This entry was posted on September 21, 2015 by in health care, medical negligence, pregnancy, sickle cell anemia and tagged , , .
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