maternal mortality

Mamas on Bedrest: Breastfeeding Cuts Breast Cancer Risks in Black Women

October 13th, 2014

Black Baby BreastfeedingHi Mamas,

We all know that “Breast is Best”! Yet in this country, many women are still unaware of the benefits of breastfeeding. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Black community where the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that only 62% of African American mothers initiated breastfeeding as of 2010 data. By 6 months, only 32% of those mothers were still breastfeeding. So while lactation consultants and others will continue to promote breastfeeding citing the benefits to the baby, there is now an equally significant reason to promote breastfeeding in African American Mamas: Breastfeeding likely protects African American women against Estrogen Receptor negative breast cancer.

Estrogen Receptor negative breast cancer is a very aggressive form of breast cancer and African American women are affected at a disproportionately higher rate than white women. While breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer, this has previously only been shown in Estrogen Receptor positive cancers. According to this current study, African American women who have given birth had a 33% higher risk for ER-negative breast cancer than those who had never given birth, and a 37% higher risk for triple-negative breast cancer. However, breast-feeding lowered the risk for both ER-negative and triple-negative disease. Christine Ambrosone, PhD, chair of the Department of Cancer Prevention and Control at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York summarizes the findings this way:

“These data might partially explain why black women are disproportionately affected by ER-negative breast cancer; although they typically have more children than white women, they have a lower prevalence of lactation. In addition, for every age category in the United States, the incidence of triple-negative breast cancer is higher in black women than in non-Hispanic white women.”

Some researchers are skeptical of the findings, stating that it has yet to be determined that pregnancy is causative of Estrogen Receptor Negative Breast Cancer and breastfeeding reduces risk. However, Dr. Ambrose and her colleagues hold firm that their data suggest that pregnancy and childbirth might actually increase the incidence, but that breast-feeding might lower the risk.

Personally, I feel that since such a simple act could have such a significant outcome, it only makes sense to increase awareness and increase the emphasis among African American women to breastfeed. To date, there is no compelling reason for black women NOT to breastfeed. Now, with the known potential benefits to the baby and the ever emerging benefits to black mamas-now a potential protection against an aggressive form of breast cancer-breastfeeding is becoming more of a necessity than ever!

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Mamas, please share this vital information with other (black) mamas you may know who are either on the fence about breastfeeding or who are against breastfeeding. This data is too important not to share! The potential costs are too great and the solution too simple and readily available. Thank you. Let me know how you fared in the comments section below.

References: 

Medscape OB/GYN and Women’s Health

Julie R. Palmer, Emma Viscidi, Melissa A. Troester, Chi-Chen Hong, Pepper Schedin, Traci N. Bethea, Elisa V. Bandera, Virginia Borges, Craig McKinnon, Christopher A. Haiman, Kathryn Lunetta, Laurence N. Kolonel, Lynn Rosenberg, Andrew F. Olshan and Christine B. Ambrosone. “Parity, Lactation, and Breast Cancer Subtypes in African American Women: Results from the AMBER Consortium” Journal of the National Cancer institute (2014) 106 (10): dju237

Mamas on Bedrest: Game ON!

October 4th, 2013

Wendy Davis is running for Governor of Texas!! The image of her on the cover of Texas Monthly shows her with her now trademark sneakers and the tagline, “Game On”.

Okay, what does this have to do with Mamas on Bedrest you may be asking? It means that women will once again get a chance to receive medical care that has long been denied here in Texas.

Texas has some of the worst records when it comes to women’s health. According to Cecile Richards, The President of Planned Parenthood,

“Over the past two years, 76 women’s health centers have been forced to close their doors and stop providing affordable, lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, STD testing, and basic preventive care. And when Governor Perry and his allies ended the Texas Women’s Health Program, more than 130,000 women were shut off from accessing the health care they need, purely because of politics.”

In addition, in Texas, many health insurance plans do not offer maternity coverage. Yup. You read me right. Health insurance policies are not required to cover maternity care, and many of the carriers who cover Texas women don’t provide coverage for maternity services as part of their standard insurance plans. What they do is offer women “the opportunity to purchase an additional rider for maternity care.” In other words, if your insurance policy doesn’t include maternity coverage, you must pay for the rider or wing it and hope that you don’t incur ANY complications for which you will be responsible. I know many women who have fared just fine in this system. They receive their care from excellent midwives and many have home or birthing center births. But for those of us who are high risk, or for those of us who become high risk, not having maternity coverage and developing a complication during pregnancy can cause catastrophic financial damage.

Now, we all need to take a breath. Wendy Davis has simply announced that she is running for governor. She has not yet won. But for Texas women, this is the best news to come in a really long time. The fact that there is even a potential that someone may become an elected official that actually CARES about women’s health and is willing to take a stand for it and demand it on behalf of thousands of women is great new indeed.

Some people see Davis as purely an abortion rights advocate. If you only see her in that light, you are missing the much larger picture. Davis stands for women, children and those which many call “the underserved”. She is a champion or education, something desperately needed as Texas schools rank near the bottom in the country on per pupil spending. She has fought against education cuts 2 years ago and was able to get reinstated $3billion dollars of the $5billion cut in education.  It’s going to be a tough battle. Davis is going up against a strong “good ole boy” establishment and a strong candidate in Gregg Abbott. Many of the “status Quo” are not taking her campaign too seriously. They feel that while there is a lot of national attention focused on Davis, within Texas, she’s not going to be able to make the impact necessary to win the election.

I hope that they are wrong.

The Texas Department of State Health Services reports that the infant mortality rate overall in Texas is 6.1/1000 live births. However, black infants die at a rate of 11.4/1000 live births. Additionally, the Maternal mortality rate overall is 24.6/100,000  births with black women having a maternal mortality rate of 53.9.  Analysts from the state and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attribute these numbers to lack of access to quality medical care.

Now Wendy Davis, if elected governor of Texas won’t be able to change all that is wrong with Texas women’s health care overnight. She will still have to contend with the “good ole boy” network and the very conservative right which is a large segment of the electorate in Texas. However, the demographics have changed alot over the years and there are substantial numbers of women and ethnic minorities able to vote. We will all have to see if these changing demographics are enough to turn the tide on the electorate, to elect Wendy Davis governor and to positively effect access to quality, comprehensive Women’s health care in Texas.

Mamas on Bedrest: Mamas Making a Difference

April 15th, 2013

Mamas, you can make a difference-right from your beds!!

I know, you are probably thinking,

“What the heck could I possibly do? I’m on bed rest. I have all that I can handle right now.”

I hear you, mamas. I know that your utmost concern is first and foremost for your own health and for the health of your unborn child. But isn’t that what all mamas want??

This weekend I went to a clothing swap to raise funds for the “Train 1000 Midwives” program for the Edna University Hospital in Somaliland Africa. The Edna University Hospital was established in Hargeisa, Somaliland following the bloody, brutal civil war in Somalia. After the war, the newly established Republic of Somaliland was left with a war torn country and no public help or services. Edna Adan Ismail, former minister to Somaliland and current President of the Organization for Victims of Torture,  is a leading activist for women’s health rights in Somaliland and she speaks vehemently against female genital circumcision/female genital mutilation. She established the University Hospital in the hopes that those trained there will return home to their native towns and villages and care for their people. The “Train 1000 Midwives” Program is a direct response to the extremely high rate of maternal and infant mortality in the region.

“Train 1000 Midwives” is one of the projects selected by Connecther.org for funding. Connecther.org’s vision and mission are:

VISION:

Connecther seeks to end global poverty by partnering with donors, non-profits and other stakeholders that focus on aiding women and children in their quest for self reliance.

MISSION:

Connecther provides a platform for matching donors to projects that provide poverty alleviation services to women and children in their quest for self-reliance. Connecther helps our project partners raise funds and awareness via our communications & crowdfunding platforms insuring that Givers’ contributions are invested to make the biggest positive impact.

Connecther is an amazing organization and at it’s core is a group of women who have decided to come together and make a difference. It’s that simple. Women, more specifically Mamas, have come together and are essentially saying,

‘It’s no longer acceptable for women and girls to suffer and struggle.  Those women and girls who are so inclined to do better we are going to help them by providing funds for necessary resources.’

It’s that simple to get involved. It’s that simple to be “Pro-Active”. The Clothing Swap was sponsored by The Lucky Penny Fund. Inspired by Half The Sky, a movement intent on exchanging women’s oppression into opportunity, friend and colleague Jessica Sunshine Christian started the Lucky Penny Fund as a way to learn more about the lives of women around the world and to help. She admits that she doesn’t have much to give, but she is willing to give from what she has-one penny at a time. Jessica and her partner Carmen pooled their energy and resources to organize the clothing swap. We each cleaned out our closets and for $25 essentially “went shopping”. Our donations went to the “Train 1000 Midwives” project via Connecther and the remaining items not swapped were donated to a local women’s shelter. This was win-win-win -win!!

So often we learn of events or people in the world and think, “That’s so sad” or, “That’s tragic”. Yet the moment passes because we feel impotent to effect change. Mamas can change the world and all of the organizations mentioned above are in existence because mamas have said, “Enough is enough! I may not be able to do much, but I can do what I can!!”

That’s all it takes! That’s what it means to be “Pro-Active!” So mamas, even if you are on bed rest, consider what you can do to ease the burden of another mama; donate funds, subscribe to a newsletter, volunteer, be a peer supporter (Lots of this on our Facebook Page!). Any little bit helps.