Pregnancy can be an exciting time for expectant moms looking forward to welcoming their new baby into the world. Unfortunately, not all moms have this experience. October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. It’s a time to be supportive of moms who have lost a child during pregnancy or infancy. In many communities, no one ever talks about losing a baby during or after pregnancy because it’s linked to shame and stigma.
This month, it is also crucial to talk about the Black infant mortality rate, which is 2 times higher than White infants, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health). This leaves many Black moms grieving the unexpected loss of their infant during pregnancy or postpartum.
Some of the causes of Black infant mortality include:
- Low birth weight
- Maternal complications
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
- Racism in medical settings
A study released in August of 2020, by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Journal noted that, “When cared for by White physicians, Black newborns were about three times more likely to die in the hospital than White newborns, the researchers found. That disparity dropped significantly when the doctor was Black, although Black newborns nonetheless remained more likely than White newborns to die.”
The unexpected death of a baby during or after pregnancy is devasting for moms. The isolation and grief can cause anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress. “The family must acknowledge there was a baby before we can provide support on the loss of their baby,” says Tikvah Wadley, HC One Lead Doula.
Grieving moms will need community support to help them through this agonizing experience. It can be as simple as listening to them, providing meals, sending care packages, referrals to grief counselors or support groups, if she has other children providing childcare, or helping her around her home, so she has space to grieve the loss of her baby.
It is important for Black moms to have the resources necessary to support their mental health during the grieving process. Below are a few organizations that are focused on helping moms who have lost baby along with some other resources. If you have additional resources, please send them to email@example.com,and we can update this resource page.
Resources for moms grieving the loss of a baby or child
Books on infant/child loss
Hold On To Hope by Stacey Edwards
What God Is Honored Here by Shannon Gibney & Kao Kalia Yang (Editors)
Beyond Tears by Ellen Mitchell
Shattered: Surviving the Loss of a Child by Gary Roe