There is a Black Maternal Health Crisis. Rachel Nicks is Doing Something About It.

Rachel Nicks is sharing her story around the Black Maternal Health Crisis. She encourages you to listen, speak up, fight and to never give up on who you are.

Photo Credit: Kate Moore

Why in 2023 do I have to stop my life as a Black mother and explain why my life and the life of my children should matter?

I am the mother of two phenomenal Black boys who will soon be viewed by many as predators -threats. I have to worry and pray that everyone sees what I see but I know that a day will come that I have to rob them of their innocence to keep them alive.

Why? Racism.

I am a Black woman….educated, privileged, accomplished, kind, funny….yet I still threaten people so much that they have jeopardized my safety, comfort, and TRIED to rob me of my joy. 

I choose joy daily in spite of challenges but please know: I am human, I have stress, I have fears, I feel pain. 

In the 1860’s Dr. Marion Sims who is often referred to as the “Father of Gynecology” deduced that Black women do NOT feel pain the same as white women. He came to this conclusion after the majority of the slaves he practiced the cesarean section on WITHOUT anesthesia survived. The census also shows us many of the women were raped, as their children were of mixed race. 

The Black body in America has been disrespected from the moment slaves were gathered in Africa, packed on ships, and made to be slaves in the land of the Free. 

If you are uncomfortable reading this….keep reading. 

Black people cannot take off their color to create ease or comfort or safety in their lives. 

We endure discomfort and prejudice daily because we exist in a country that considered us ⅗ of a human.

There is a Black maternal health crisis in this country. Black women are dying at 3-4 times the rate as their white counterparts in childbirth and 90% of these deaths are preventable. Why? Racism. As a result of conscious bias, unconscious bias, and/or medical racism. 

I want you to know that this is a crisis that is hard to conceptualize. So if you are confused or finding your mind trying to say something along the lines of…

“Oh, only poor Black women are dying.” 

“Oh, only Black women on medicaid are dying.”

“Only obese Black women are dying.” 

“Only immigrant Black women are dying.” 

“Only Black women that don’t get prenatal care are dying.” 

Well, why is it okay for THOSE people to die? And it isn’t the “usual suspects” that are dying. 

Black women that are doctors with a PPO die. WHY? HOW? Great question, we are not listened to. Our experience is not prioritized. 

I ask that you not dismiss this as a Black people issue. We didn’t create racism, therefore, we should not be expected to solve this inhumane crisis. I have decided to take action and found a nonprofit, Birth Queen, to combat the Black maternal health crisis and use my voice and network to create change. However, that was a choice that I made because it provided me with calm and hope. 

I absolutely believe that every person in this country should be outraged that Black women are afraid of DYING during the most beautiful and vulnerable time in their lives. 

My last doula client, a Black woman, asked me if she should put her will in her hospital bag. Our fear is real. In NYC, Black women are estimated to be up to 12 times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than white women.

Okay breathe……there is HOPE. There are tangible solutions. Often we hear statistics and forget that these are real people so please just take a moment and imagine not surviving your birth….


  1. We know that when Black women are cared for by Black women the outcome is positive. More specifically midwives, doulas, and lactation counselors. We need to make sure we create funding to train more Black midwives, doulas, and lactation counselors to support our Black birthing community. It is also important to educate and equip Black birthing people and make it possible for them to be supported by the support team of their choice. We have forgotten to center the MOTHER in the birth experience. I say all the time, there is no baby without mama so we must center her. 
  1. I titled my nonprofit Birth Queen because I truly believe that women become Queens when they become mothers. It is key that we create systems to make sure women not only survive their births but set mothers and their families to thrive. 
  1. Speak up. It is difficult to speak up after enduring a trauma during birth. However, we must document and out the bad providers and to highlight wonderful ones. The IRTH APP is an effective tool to do just that. It is a Yelp like app for Black and brown birthing people and doulas to review their birth experience. This app can also be used by others that are not from the Black and Brown community, check the reviews of your provider before choosing them. Please do not choose a provider that has bad reviews. 
  1. I realize that this crisis is sad, depressing, etc however, if we turn our backs to the reality that Black women are dying they will continue to die. However, if you commit to talk about this crisis so people are aware and offer and implement solutions you will be advocating and saving lives. 

I know that if we improve maternal health for Black women we will all benefit. With the state of women’s rights in this country I pray you can see that we must take a stand TOGETHER to protect the reproductive rights and health care of all women. 

You have the power in you to create change.

I would love your support as I do my part in the fight to empower Birth Queens.

Thank you for reading,

Rachel Nicks 


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