What No One Tells Black Women About Preterm Birth

Black mothers are more likely to be at risk for delivering prematurely and least likely to get help to prevent it

Nina Bahadur


Illustration: Chelsea Charles

Jessica Wade’s first pregnancy was rife with problems. She and her husband, Marlon, had always known they wanted children and were thrilled when she got a positive pregnancy test. But then the complications began. First, doctors told Wade that she was carrying an “empty sac” with no heartbeat. Then they discovered she was actually carrying twins, and they could hear two heartbeats. And then, they told her, one of the heartbeats they heard was worryingly slow.

Wade says she went to urgent care seven different times between her eighth and 21st week of pregnancy. (A full-term pregnancy typically lasts 40 weeks.) “I knew something was wrong, and something was wrong,” she tells ZORA. At 21 weeks gestation, Wade miscarried one of the twins, and her water broke. Doctors put her on bed rest in the hospital to give the remaining twin a fighting chance.

During her 58 days on bed rest, Wade says, “We dealt with the outside stresses, too. Because just because you’re in the hospital doesn’t mean that life stops, you know?” She couldn’t work, obviously, and her husband lost his job. They lost one of their cars, and the other car broke…