black-women's-health

It’s Women’s History Month, and today we’re honoring Byllye Avery, who has dedicated her life to improving the health of African-American women. She founded the Black Women’s Health Imperative — an organization dedicated to promoting physical, mental, and spiritual health for African-American women.

Learn more about her work >>

Study reveals black women are far more likely to die from cervical cancer than white women

  • The study, published Monday in the medical journal Cancer, found that death rates from cervical cancer in the United States are significantly higher than prior research had calculated. 
  • The gap between black women and white women was also wider, with black women dying at nearly twice the rate of their white counterparts.
  • “[These] disparities are even worse than we feared,” Dr. Kathleen M. Schmeler, an associate professor of gynecologic oncology at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, told the NY Times
  • "We have screenings that are great, but many women in America are not getting them. And now I have even more concerns going forward, with the [likely] repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which covers screening, and the closing of family planning clinics, which do much of that screening.” Read more

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C: I wish people would start stressing the importance of more black/POC mental health professionals. After 7 years of battling depression my family finally decided to seek out a counselor for me. My only problem now is damn near every counselor in my area is white. Take that however you want to, but when a portion of your depression deals with your identity as a black female, racism and the struggles you experience because of it, it’s pretty hard to open up to someone who can never relate.

“WHEN THE SHADOW IS IN FRONT OF YOU, ALL YOU SEE IS DARKNESS AND YOU FORGET THE SUN IS AT YOUR BACK.” 

BUT THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE. #NeverGiveUp

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, don’t be afraid or ashamed to seek help. It is a move of strength to reach out. 

SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE: 1-800-273-8255

Abortion, along with reproductive rights should be available safely, easily accessible and affordable. For everyone, without exception. For black women, for WoC, for disabled women, for poor women, for uneducated women, for women in the country, for teens, for trans people, for Queer people, for boys and men with uterus’s, for incest and sexual assault victims, for the woman who is not ready to have a child, for a woman who has no interest in having a child. For everyone, without exception. More than that, the stigma and shame around Abortion should end. No woman should feel guilty for having to make that choice. No men should determine what happens to a woman’s body, nor should they ever legislate for it.

Nothing but support, nothing but love for each other’s choices and rights, nothing but determination to stand in solidarity with the right to choose for one’s self!

—  Hawzhin Azeez - The Middle Eastern Feminist/Facebook

BLACK WOMEN & ENDOMETRIOSIS

Endometriosis uniquely affects African-American women. Traditional thinking was that endometriosis was a condition of white women but that conventional thinking is rapidly changing. Unfortunately, when Black women have chronic pelvic pain it is presumed to be due to other conditions like PID (pelvic inflammatory disease, a pelvic infection) or uterine fibroid tumors (very common in Black women). However, endometriosis is real and common in many African-American women.

So, lets start with what exactly is endometriosis? Endometriosis is a condition that occurs when the tissue that normally grows inside of the uterus (called endometrium) grows outside of the uterus in the pelvis. Once in the pelvis, the endometrial tissue causes inflammation and scarring as it attaches to pelvic organs (fallopian tubes, ovaries, bowel and bladder). This scarring and inflammation is what causes the painful symptoms many with endometriosis experience.

ENDOMETRIOSIS is common. Approximately 10% of American women (about five million) are affected. Endometriosis is sited as the single most common causes of chronic pelvic pain in women (pelvic pain that has lasted for six months or longer).

The exact cause of endometriosis is unknown but possibilities include menstrual bleeding that goes through the fallopian tubes into the pelvis, genetic factors (it is more common in families) and having had a prior Cesarean section (C-section) delivery.

While we don’t know the exact cause, we do know the symptoms of endometriosis. These symptoms which are frequently wide ranging and debilitating include:

  • Irregular vaginal bleeding. This can be heavy periods,
  • long periods or spotting/bleeding between periods.
  • Pelvic pain. Crampy pain that can occur anywhere in the pelvis (middle or sides).
  • Painful periods. Most women have some cramping during their periods but patients with endometriosis have cramping that goes beyond normal period pain. Menstrual cramps in endometriosis patients are frequently debilitating resulting in missed work, missed school and a general inability to get through one’s normal daily activities.
  • Painful intercourse that is usually most pronounced during deep penetration.
  • Dyschezia. Painful defecation (bowel movements).
  • Infertility. Infertility is technically defined as the inability to achieve
  • pregnancy despite 12 or more uninterrupted months of trying and endometriosis is one of it’s most common causes.

If you suspect that you might have endometriosis, you should make an appointment with your OB/GYN ASAP. Diagnosing endometriosis requires a minor surgical procedure known as laparoscopy. For women who want to avoid surgery, a presumptive diagnosis can be made using hormonal medications.

  • Laparoscopy is a quick (usually less than 30-minute) same day surgical procedure that is performed using two small (usually 2cm) incisions.    
  • Hormonal medications. If the thought of having surgery scares you, there are medications that your doctor can prescribe that help to make a presumptive diagnosis of endometriosis.

While there unfortunately is no cure for endometriosis, there are multiple treatment options and lifestyle changes that can improve symptoms.

Lifestyle changes include:

Increased exercise/weight loss. Not only does this improve overall health and wellbeing but reducing the extra pounds reduces hormone levels.

Reduce alcohol and caffeine. Both can increase hormone levels.

Eat more fiber: Fiber can reduce hormone levels in your blood.

Eat less soy: Soy mimics the hormone estrogen.

Eat organic: Food with less hormones and steroids are better for our all around health and obviously ingesting less hormones will reduce your own hormone levels.

Hormonal suppression

Endometriosis is exacerbated by the normal monthly production and fluctuation of hormones. Taking hormonal medications that reduce your natural hormonal cycling frequently will reduce the symptoms of endometriosis while simultaneously slowing it’s advancement. These hormones include

  • Birth control pills
  • Depo Provera injection
  • A stronger hormonal injection called Lupron

Surgical intervention

Patients with endometriosis usually will end up having surgery and frequently they will have multiple surgical procedures.

  • Laparoscopy, the same camera surgery that is used to make the diagnosis, can also be used to remove areas of endometriosis. Unfortunately, with time, the endometriosis often returns but the procedure can be repeated.
  • Hysterectomy Is the definitive treatment for endometriosis. It provides the best symptom relief but it is only an option for women who want no further children.

Chronic pelvic pain can come from multiple sources and none of the diagnoses are mutually exclusive. When it comes to chronic pelvic pain, educate yourself and be your own advocate. Talk to your doctor about the possibility of endometriosis, ask questions and don’t stop asking until you are satisfied with the answers. If you are not satisfied with the answers, consider seeking a second opinion.