‘We really don't know enough about our bodies. We don't know enough about our reproductive systems.’
Evonnia Woods is the Senior Outreach Producer for Reproaction, an advocacy organization focusing on reproductive justice.
In Missouri, Black women experience a higher rate of severe maternal morbidities – things that impact the quality of life – than white women, according to the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services.
She spoke about how barriers – like a lack of comprehensive sexual education and a limited knowledge of one’s body can lead to unintentional pregnancies and sometimes poorer outcomes for moms and babies.
Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words.
Evonnia Woods: So, a lot of the times the health of the parent is indicative of a lot of issues we have in our healthcare system, and then it can have a bearing on the health of the child – at birth and up to a year, right?
That's by definition “infant mortality.”
But our healthcare system doesn't support that – where a lot of the care drops off at six weeks after the child is born – for the parent and the child, if you're relying on Medicaid. So, you end up with that as a barrier.
Barriers are also – racist physicians or healthcare professionals, and the way that poverty ties into that, and being able to afford to get the care that you need, when you need it, and where you need it and have access to that.
There are so many barriers, like, I could list them all day…
But a barrier that I don't think… I'm going to mention this one because I don't think that it gets enough airtime, and that's – we really don't know enough about our bodies. We don't know enough about our reproductive systems.
"It still catches me off guard just how little we know about our reproductive systems: how we get pregnant, you know, the stages of pregnancy, different ways to give birth– like there's so many people who don't know what a Doula is, don't know what a Midwife is."Evonnia Woods
And with that said, a lot of people don't even start learning until they get pregnant. Right? And so they don't know that what's happening – if it's weird, if it should be happening, if it shouldn't be happening, what to look for.
So, they're being educated abut it as they're going through it, and that one for me – despite, like I've been doing this long enough where I shouldn't know just how ignorant we are about our bodies, but it still catches me off guard.
It still catches me off guard just how little we know about our reproductive systems: how we get pregnant, you know, the stages of pregnancy, different ways to give birth– like there's so many people who don't know what a Doula is, don't know what a Midwife is, right?
[That] think that you can only have babies in hospitals or, you know, it’s like, “Oh yeah, I may get sick the first trimester” or “Oh, yeah, may have heard about, you know, about diabetes while you're pregnant or your feet swelling.”
It's a lot of hearsay and it's like we pick up on pieces, but then that goes back to you know, comprehensive sex ed, and how all of these things intersect.
So, when you're not getting comprehensive sex ed, you end up with a large amount of the population not knowing much about the reproductive systems – how they operate, how they function, how they work.
There's so many myths on like, how you get pregnant, when you can get pregnant, right?
And so, people end up getting pregnant don't intend to, or in some cases, people don't even realize that they're pregnant, right?
Some of this does come from us not knowing how our reproductive systems work, how pregnancy works, how giving birth works, you know? So, it can definitely add to the trauma, it can add to health outcomes that are unfavorable….