Pregnancy Complications That Impact Black Women Directly
by Black Love Team



April 15, 2021


4 Minute Read


Pregnancy Complications That Impact Black Women Directly

Pregnant woman (Courtesy of Canva.com)
Courtesy of Canva.com

It is known that Black women are disproportionately affected by life threatening complications that cost them their lives. It’s vital to learn and understand the possible symptoms of issues that can be caught early and may require immediate medical attention. Having an advocate for you during a pregnancy whether a partner, family, friend, or midwife/doula can save your life.

HELLP Syndrome

“HELLP” is an acronym for:

Hemolysis is the breakdown of red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body.

Elevated Liver means there are high levels of these chemicals that can be a sign of liver problems.

Low Platelets serve as a problem because platelets help the blood clot.

It is a form of high blood pressure that can develop in the 3rd trimester or postpartum that happens in tandem with preeclampsia.

Some symptoms may include:

  • Constant headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Nosebleeds
  • Excessive weight gain
  • Pain in the abdomen 
  • Edema or extreme swelling


After the first trimester preeclampsia becomes more prevalent for pregnant women. Signs of preeclampsia can include:

  • Have an autoimmune disease
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Swelling of the hands and face
  • Diabetes
  • Sickle cell anemia

Preeclampsia disproportionately affects Black women from low-income areas.

Gestational Diabetes

Credit: sutterhealth.org

This is one of the most common complications that pregnant women encounter. It is also one that can be more manageable when detected. Gestational diabetes can often be attributed to obesity and affects Black women at higher rates than any other ethnicity. 

Look for the signs for the potential of developing GD:

  • Bed rest due to excessive gaining of weight
  • A family history of Type-2 diabetes 
  • Having a pregnancy history of GD with other pregnancies 


Postpartum Hemorrhaging or PPH is an excessive bleeding after having a baby. This can occur as a result of:

  • Developing preeclampsia 
  • Having a Cesarean section 
  • Obesity
  • Tearing of the cervix or vaginal area

PPH calls for immediate intervention so if you’re bleeding heavily, dizzy, developing chills, or find yourself extremely weak call your doctor and/or head to the emergency room immediately! 

BlackLove.com Related Articles:
Impacting the Black Maternal Health Crisis by Being Informed
5 Resources for Black Women Seeking Healthcare Providers of Color
The Black Maternal Health Issue You Haven’t Heard Of: HELLP Syndrome 

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

According to the CDC, high blood pressure happens in 1 in every 12 to 17 pregnancies among women ages 20 to 44. It is an entry for many complications for many pregnancy complications.

Black women in the United States are at a higher risk for developing high blood pressure than others. Symptoms are identical to that of preeclampsia.


Pregnant woman with doctor (Credit: commonwealthfund.org)
Credit: commonwealthfund.org

Black women are extremely affected by uterine fibroids. These are masses or non-cancerous tissue that form within the walls of the uterus. They can cause women severe pain and in some cases may require surgical removal.

Black women are more likely to get fibroids with symptoms including:

  • Prolonged menstrual cycle
  • Extreme menstrual cramps 
  • Frequent urination
  • Constipation
  • Backaches

Researchers have attributed the relationship to Black women and fibroids as a result of vitamin D deficiency, obesity, and inadequate access to quality healthcare.

As with all of these conditions it is vital for Black women and their partners to understand how to advocate for themselves in the event they experience complications. There are more resources than ever to help learn to combat the implicit biases that cause many to die in situations in which they could indeed be saved.