Last year, India Sneed Williams, then 34, learned some devastating news — she had cervical cancer. Sneed Williams had hoped to have another baby, but her doctor recommended a hysterectomy to treat her cancer. This would eliminate her chance of having another child.
“There were no other alternatives presented to me,” Sneed Williams told NBC News reporter Blayne Alexander.
But Sneed Williams obtained a second opinion at the encouragement of her family. Her new doctor agreed that a hysterectomy was needed to treat her cervical cancer. But she also offered Sneed Williams hope.
“What she did say was we also have an egg retrieval program that we’d like to put you into,” she explained. “(I) never had to ask for it.”This came as a relief. But as she started the egg retrieval process, she and her husband conceived on their own. She and her doctor put her cancer treatments on hold while Sneed Williams carried baby Amani, who was born eight weeks early (Amani is now thriving). Sneed Williams says she knows why her second doctor gave better options than her first.
“My white doctors were pushing me towards hysterectomy, gave me no alternatives,” she said. “Whereas my Black doctor heard me, received me and directed me to alternatives.”
Sneed Williams’ story highlights just some of the challenges Black women face when it comes to maternal health care. For many Black women, having a baby can be deadly: Black women are three times more likely to die than white women during childbirth.
The Biden administration and Vice President Kamala Harris say they are taking Black maternal health seriously. NBC News learned exclusively that Harris will host a Cabinet meeting this week to discuss Black maternal health. The administration also has dedicated $3 billion to help fund programs — such as rural maternal health coverage and implicit bias training — in the hopes of addressing the disparities.
Doctors believe that both patients and health care providers need to be more aware of pregnancy risks for Black moms.
“I really urge patients to have these really candid conversations about ‘What can I do to make sure that I’m safe in pregnancy,’” Dr. Renita White, an OB-GYN in Atlanta, said. “But also for doctors to consider, ‘What can I do to be a better provider or to make sure that I’m taking care of my patients.’”
White said many patients seek her out because they want someone they feel will better relate to them.
“I have so many patients who come to me and say, ‘Not only do I want a female doctor, but I also want another Black doctor who may understand or listen to me,” she said.