An October episode of “Family Reunion” has resurfaced online, highlighting concerns about Black maternal mortality. The Netflix series stars Loretta Divine and Tia Mowry.
In season 5’s first episode, Mowry’s character Cocoa gives birth to her son Skye. After Cocoa tells the doctor that she was on her fifth child and things should be “easy-peasy,” she experiences intense pain.
Cocoa later gives birth to Skye but experiences severe pain below her ribs and lower back. “We already gave her Tylenol,” her doctor responds. “Well, it’s not working. My stomach really hurts,” Cocoa replies.
Divine’s character Amelia questioned her daughter-in-law’s high blood pressure, but the doctor ignored her concerns and responded that her blood pressure would go down. After Ameilia explained that her daughter did not look good and was in pain, the doctor responded, “She’ll be fine … I’ve delivered hundreds of babies.”
Amelia found another doctor, a Black doctor, in the hallway. The doctor diagnosed Cocoa with postpartum preeclampsia. The doctor noted that other doctors don’t always “take our health concerns seriously… as if we don’t really feel pain.”
Cocoa began to have a seizure and was taken to the operating room, but she recovered. The episode noted that Black women die of childbirth more than any other group in the United States.
Black women have pregnancy-related death rates three to four times higher than white women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, factors such as structural racism, variation in quality health care, underlying chronic conditions, and implicit bias are all causes for the high death rates. Data also shows that at least eight out of ten pregnancy-related deaths are preventable.
Tamorah Shareef Muhammad shared a clip of the episode on Twitter with the caption, “This keeps happening to us as black women and these doctors don’t care!”
“Family Reunion” is currently available on Netflix.