Fierce

Doctors Are Failing To Diagnose Black Women With PCOS

“I could barely stand, it was like my whole body had shut down”, said 22-year-old Courtney Boateng.  “I had to change pads every 45 minutes, I was bleeding through my clothes at home, and I could feel all these massive clots coming out of me. I could have filled buckets [with my blood]. It was the worst period of my life.”  This was the traumatic menstrual experience that ended up lasting for over two weeks and prompted Boateng to seek help with a medical professional. At the emergency appointment, the doctor told her that her symptoms were just related to her stress and her weight and sent her home with ibuprofen. It took her five gynecologist appointments over nine months for her to finally be referred for an ultrasound and ultimately diagnosed with PCOS. This experience is a common reality many Black women have in the healthcare system.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, commonly known as PCOS, is an endocrine disorder that affects from either 2% to 20% of women aged 18 to 44–depending on how one defines the criteria. PCOS is a set of symptoms caused by an elevated level of androgens (male hormones like testosterone) in a woman’s body that cause an abnormal amount of cysts or sacs on a woman’s ovaries. These hormones cause everything from prolonged menstruation cycles to no menstruation, to premature balding, to the appearance of hair in unusual places on a woman’s body, to excessive and sudden weight gain. It also often comes with painful, heavy-flow periods that can be extremely disruptive to a woman’s everyday life.

Not only that, but PCOS is the leading cause of infertility among women, causing over 75% of cases having to do with ovulation disruption.

An estimated 50% of annual PCOS cases go undiagnosed in the U.S., with many placing the blame on the ignorance of primary care physicians.

The reason that this disorder is so under- and misdiagnosed by doctors is that, often, many of PCOS’s symptoms (like abnormal periods, weight gain, and mood fluctuations) are mistaken for symptoms of stress, puberty, or sometimes, just chalked up to a bad diet. And perhaps above all, PCOS is a disorder that occurs only in women, a class of people that doctors notoriously don’t take as seriously.

Many patients also suspect that PCOS isn’t taken as seriously by doctors because it’s most likely to occur in overweight patients, with up to 80% of women suffering from PCOS also falling to the “obese” category. However, obesity is a symptom of PCOS, not a cause; the elevated levels of androgen hormones in a woman’s body make her blood sugar more resistant to insulin, making her more prone to weight gain. This also makes a woman with PCOS more prone to coming down with Type 2 Diabetes–a common condition associated with the disorder.

Many people believe that doctors’ responses to women’s health complaints are rooted in internalized, out-dated beliefs about “hysterical women”, a historical catchall mental disorder diagnosis that women were commonly diagnosed with starting in the 17th century. Still, these outdated beliefs about the fragility of female mental health persist today, with women being more likely to be prescribed antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications than men are (as opposed to pain medication or further testing) when they visit the doctor with pain.

To make matters worse, black patients are often (erroneously) thought by doctors to be more tolerant to pain than their white peers, as is exemplified in a 2012 study that found that black patients were 22% less likely than white patients to be prescribed pain medication by their doctors.

This theory about doctors’ beliefs was further proven when a study was conducted on 200 white medical students and residents. The students were quizzed on multiple old wives’ tales about different races, like the old one: “black people have ‘thicker skin’ than white people”. Half of the medical students thought one or more of the false statements were true, which gives weight to the theory that doctors don’t take black pain as seriously.

The one-two punch of being a woman and being black makes the doctor’s office an especially stressful place for an Afro-Latina to be.

This flippancy towards women’s health problems is exasperated in health care professionals’ treatment of women of color. PCOS is no more common in white women than black women, but black women are vastly less likely to be accurately diagnosed and treated for the disorder (as with many other health disorders).

So, unfortunately, like many health issues, black women are less likely to be taken seriously by doctors when it comes to PCOS. This is a particularly frustrating reality seeing as PCOS is treatable, with symptoms greatly improving through largely inexpensive lifestyle fixes such as adding diet and exercise programs into their daily regimens or simply taking hormonal birth control pills.

But as more and more studies bring to light the widespread reality of implicit bias among doctors, many black women are becoming frustrated at how they seem to be the ones getting the brunt of their doctors’ indifference. Although ovarian cysts can be detected via ultrasound, it’s often difficult for black women to be referred to ultrasounds by their doctors who aren’t taking their pain seriously.

Many experts blame doctors’ failure of black women on their implicit bias.

Implicit bias is defined by PubMed as “a negative evaluation of a person on the basis of irrelevant characteristics such as race or gender” caused by “ associations outside conscious awareness”. That means that some doctors may misdiagnose or under-diagnosed patients based on racist or sexist conclusions that they’re not even aware they’re making.

This problem of implicit bias among the medical community is exasperated by the lack of diversity among doctors, with only 5% being Latino (regardless of the fact that Latinos are the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S.), and only 4% of doctors in the U.S. being black.

Linda Blount, president of the Black Women’s Health Imperative, is very matter-of-fact when describing the realities that implicit bias has at the doctor’s office: “We want to think that physicians just view us as a patient, and they’ll treat everyone the same, but they don’t,” she says. “Their bias absolutely makes its way into the exam room.”

Somewhat surprisingly, this bias transcends social and economic factors and has little to do with class. “When you look at inequalities in healthcare, you see a lot of studies tying the problems to race and poverty, but there’s not a lot about educated, insured black women who are not poor”, says Bette Parks Sacks, Assistant Professor of Social Welfare at UC BerkeleySacks. “Yet infant mortality rates for black women with a college degree are higher than those for white women with just a high school education.”

The under-diagnosis of PCOS in black women is just another example of the way the American healthcare system is letting down black women.

Because of the structural racism within the healthcare community, black women are often told that their very real symptoms are “all in their heads” or simply stress-related.

The most dangerous facet of this pattern is that once physicians decide that a patient’s symptoms are simply stress-related, they stop searching for another diagnosis. This leaves many Afro-Latinas struggling with their PCOS alone, believing that their long and intense periods, hair loss, weight gain, insulin resistance, and often, mood-related disorders, are simply a symptom of self-induced stress.

It’s time that women of color stop being told that all they need is an Advil and a yoga regimen to improve the sometimes debilitating symptoms of PCOS. What they need instead is doctors to get real to the internalized racism they may enacting, and start taking black women’s pain seriously.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Studies Say Women Are Struggling To Breastfeed For As Long As They Should, Fortunately, Latinas Are Sharing Their Best Tips

Fierce

Studies Say Women Are Struggling To Breastfeed For As Long As They Should, Fortunately, Latinas Are Sharing Their Best Tips

Jeff Topping / Getty

If there’s one thing mothers know to be true it’s that the difficulty of motherhood doesn’t end with childbirth. When it comes to motherhood, breastfeeding in particular often proves to be one of the most difficult early steps. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 57 percent of women who breastfeed continue to do so six months after giving birth. It’s a surprising number considering the fact that the CDC also recommends that women pursue the act of breastfeeding for six months at least and that the benefits of breastfeeding are extensive. Breastfeeding has long proven to aid in the prevention of diabetes in both mothers and children, as well as the prevention of childhood obesity, allergies, SIDS, and serious infections.

Still, the process can be trying and hard.

Fortunately, Latinas are sharing their tips and techniques for keeping up with breastfeeding.

If you’re at the start of your early breastfeeding days, check out some of the tips to help you make it through below.

“Don’t give up! It gets better! Seek out help from a lactation consultant at your OB/GYN’s office or hospital — some insurance plans cover the visit at no cost. Or contact your local La Leche League for free support from other nursing moms.” –mami.guevara

“Breastfed 5 babies…best advice is relax…and every baby is different…it’s okay to ask for help…” –mommy_dee55

“Breastfed for 2 1/2 years; first 5 months were the hardest! Take your time and be patient but MOST OF ALL do what’s best for you and your baby!!” –vida_de_maddrre

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, you are a great mom. No matter how your breastfeeding journey goes, your child will be loved. That is the best you can do for your child.” –noramia1

“I say just relax it takes time for some babies to latch on. But do what’s best for you, if you can’t breastfeed DON’T be ashamed, (and others need to stop the Mommy shaming!) you can use formula, it’s not the end of the world. I have two daughters the first one breastfeed til 19 months and my 9 month old is still breastfeeding. It’s not easy but all you new mom’s out there, just know you are great.” –angie17_lo

“Keep pumping and try milkmakers lactation cookies. They are delicious and helped me so much along with fenugreek vitamins. Be patient use formula when you need to. Do what works for you mama you know best for your baby, if it’s boob great if it’s formula great. Good luck.” –rosebuds00

“One👏🏽Day👏🏽At👏🏽A👏🏽Time… Breastfeeding is NOT easy! Do what best works for you.. Even if you can only pump….but don’t give up!”nursesandy_83

“Bruh yes I’m barely on 3 WEEKS and wondering how I’m going to make it to atleast my birthday (May).” –gabrielagnunez

“Don’t hesitate to switch to formula. I was unable to produce enough to feed my baby. Formula is a safe and nutritious alternative.” –partunicorn

“If you and your baby are not thriving, switch feeding tactics. You’re not a bad mom if breastfeeding doesn’t work for you.” –alexandriatrece

“Pump when needed. The bottle and formula are fine too. As long as your baby is getting nourishment. My kid was too lazy to take the boob. I ended up pumping and giving her a bottle. She got breast milk and I had so much milk for back up. It all works out. She ended up being weened of the bottle quickly. Sipping cups were her fave. She’s 28 and very healthy!” –mrsclny

“Patience is everything. If you plan on breastfeeding you must know it won’t be easy (or it will) but every baby is different. You’ll be nursing around the clock sometimes for hours on the couch or bed. But it’s doable and for me the best decision for my kids. Sometimes I wanted to stop, but I saw their little faces and bodies growing. It was empowering that I was nourishing them. Hang in their moms, again every journey is different. Some have to go back to work, pump.. other are at home. Whatever you decided is your choice. I nursed both my kids until 3 1/2.” –glendamurakami

“Hang in there mamis! It is so worth it. The pain, scabs, and unexpected let downs go away over a few weeks/months. It’s will be the most rewarding thing you’ve ever done.” –chicadel77

“this is why i pumped for a year, instead of direct nursing. there was a lot going on in my life and latching a baby to the breast at all hours of the day just seemed like too much. i’m still super happy that i was able to provide breastmilk for a year.” –damarysocana

“Every mom & every baby is different. Do what works for you & your baby. Ignore any & all negativity that goes your way. You brought a little human to this world; that’s your priority. Focus on your precious baby & enjoy your time with him/her, the time goes by so fast!” –glass.of.oj

“It’s hard. I tried and tried. My baby wouldn’t latch on and would not stop crying. Eventually I tried pumping but my supply gave out. My son is now 17 and he is a healthy, strong, kind young man. I’ll say this, try as hard as you can but if it doesn’t work, you know you did your best. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Normalize trying but finding a solution that works.” –adris_world220

“Value your own mental health too and switch to formula if you want to. It’s a safe, nutritious alternative.” –vivrami

“Seek a lactation consultant! Also, keep at it! More challenging than giving birth, according to my SO.” –sints.slrzno

“One day at a time. I breastfed all of my three children so I know how difficult and anxiety provoking it can sometimes be. No shame in fórmula at all. Do what works for you and be good to yourself.” –belkise.elena

“Just don’t give up! Keep offering it to baby and pump so you don’t get clogs. It takes a while to get into a rhythm but it will happen just have faith!5d1 likeReply

“Do whatever works for you. If it isn’t working that’s fine. No shame in formula and no shame in whipping your tittys out in public. Do whatever the fuck is best for you and your baby.” – stuffonstuff

“If you have the resources, seeing a lactation consultant is helpful. Pumping so you don’t become engorged if the baby is skipping feedings. I would say it took about three months to get a rhythm with my babies. Good luck.”- clarissava


“Nipple shield! Turns boob into bottle! Also pump the milk if they don’t latch and just bottle feed the breast milk. But mostly… Don’t sweat it! Sometimes babies just ween themselves off the booby, it’s natural!”- queen_of_my_castle_xx

“Keep pumping and try milkmakers lactation cookies. They are delicious and helped me so much along with fenugreek vitamins. Be patient use formula when you need to. Do what works for you mama you know best for your baby, if it’s boob great if it’s formula great. Good luck.”-rosebuds00

“Be patient and enjoy the moment. It seems like a long time but, time flies and you’ll miss it.” –galvanizestem


“Nursed each of my 4 kids for 2 years. Patience and perseverance are key. Listen to your body and your baby. There is no right or wing way to do it, only your way. What works for your family is it. Be open minded and flexible. Best of luck.” –dianapatricia_66


“I’ve breastfed 4 babies. One Set of Twins, one baby exclusively breastfed until 2yo and my last baby until 3.5yo. Each baby is different. They latch differently and your body will respond differently to each one. Best advice is to relax. I know it’s hard to hear, especially if you have so many other things to tend to. They feel it when you are tense. and find their favorite nursing position …try them all. You’ll find a sweet spot eventually. And feel free to allow yourself the option to supplement when needed.”-crdguzman

“I breastfeed exclusively for 2 years (no bottle, no formula, no pacifier)! Breastfeeding is the best you can do for yourself and your baby! There are so many resources out there and honestly misinformation is what causes a lot of women to never breastfeed or give up. If anyone needs help let me know!”- niraarin

“Yes, as many moms have said before don’t give up. I am currently breastfeeding exclusively to my 10month old son. I have breastfed my 2 children prior. He has definitely been the hardest! The first 5 months was filled with feelings of self doubt, guilt and pain. Now that he is 10 months, I can say i am more than glad to still be breastfeeding. It is so much easier to not worry about formula, bottles or anything. All I do is whip out my breast and that’s it. He is a happy happy baby! First few months you do have to be next to baby all day because of constant feedings and keep in mind your baby has been used to being in your womb for 9 months, it takes time lose that attachment. But keep going and you won’t regret it! Take time for yourself every once in a while and remember you created a little human who you have the ability to nourish. Our bodies have been blessed with that ability.”- vivalayumyums

“Pump when needed. The bottle and formula are fine too. As long as your baby is getting nourishment. My kid was too lazy to take the boob. I ended up pumping and giving her a bottle. She got breast milk and I had so much milk for back up. It all works out. She ended up being weened of the bottle quickly. Sipping cups were her fave. She’s 28 and very healthy!”- mrsclny



Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Jada Pinkett Smith’s Mom Opened Up About Losing Someone To COVID-19 While On The ‘Red Table Talk’

Fierce

Jada Pinkett Smith’s Mom Opened Up About Losing Someone To COVID-19 While On The ‘Red Table Talk’

Jamie McCarthy / Getty

Updated December 19, 2020.

*Trigger Warning: this piece discusses domestic violence and rape and may be upsetting for some.*

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at1-800-656-4673. Or do an online chat.

If you’ve yet to have someone in your life personally affected by COVID-19 count yourself lucky. After all, since the outbreak, there have been 77,307,971 COVID-19 related deaths.

In a recent interview Gammy, AKA Adrienne Banfield-Norris, revealed that someone close to her passed away from COVID-19.

During a recent episode of “Red Table Talk” Adrienne her personal experiences with heartbreak.

“This year has really been the passing of my mother-in-law. It was [due to] COVID. It was very painful. And then not being able to gather and celebrate her life the way we ordinarily would,” Adrienne revealed. “I have had [a lot of romantic heartbreak in my life]. This one particular failure in one of my marriages that I really built up in my head that this was my one true love and I’ll never love like this again. It wasn’t a divorce that I wanted but at the end of the day when you really, really look at the relationship honestly it’s like, ‘This one’s going nowhere but to divorce.’ I really feel like you have to kind of take some time and be honest with yourself.”

Adrienne has been open about her relationship with her ex-husband in the past.

In an October episode of “The Red Table Talk,” Adrienne Banfield-Norris revealed that she had been raped in her marriage to Pinkett Smith’s father.

Rape by a spouse or a partner is an act of physical violence that is often overlooked and under talked about. While there’s been a growth in international attention regarding marital rape it is often widely considered a “gray area” subject even in the many countries where it is illegal. Actress Jada Pinkett Smith learned a hard truth about marital rape affected her parents’ marriage this week in an exclusive clip on the Red Table Talk. Speaking with her mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, and her daughter Willow Smith, the actress spoke about non-consensual sex with partners.

“So, Gam, you feel like nowhere in your history in regards to sexual intimacy have you felt like you had a sexual experience that was not necessarily consensual,” Pinkett Smith noted.

Banfield-Norris admitted “I have, I have, but it was also with my husband. Your dad, actually… So that’s really gray.”

Taking a moment to process, Pinkett Smith paused and that asked her mother to clarify “You’re basically saying you had non-consensual sex with my father,” she replied to her mother.

Banfield-Norris has noted how she became pregnant with Pinkett Smith in high school and married the actress’s father, Robsol Pinkett Jr soon after. After several months of marriage, the two divorced. In 2018, Pinkett Smith revealed in another episode of Red Table Talk that her mother had endured domestic violence from Robsol.

“I knew that my mother and my father had a very violent relationship early on,” Pinkett Smith explained. “She has a couple scars on her body that, as a child, I was just curious. I was like, ‘Oh, Mommy, what’s that? What’s that?’ … This will be the first time that Willow’s actually heard these stories about her grandfather who she knew.”

At the time, the three women talked about a scar on Banfield-Norris’s back which she received when Pinkett Smith’s father threw her over a banister.

“Not to make this like an excuse … but he was typically in an altered state when he was abusive like that,” Banfield-Norris said. “He was typically drunk… “I think women stay because they think that they’re in love. That’s what it was for me. I thought that it was love.”

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com