Your Health Unlocked Episodes

Ep 011 Maternal Health Memories and Musts with Byllye Avery

Publication Date: February 07, 2023

By: NWHN Staff

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The current state of maternal health care in the United States is shockingly bleak, as the U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate of any wealthy nation. Furthermore, studies have revealed stark disparities in maternal health care, with Black women three times as likely to die from pregnancy-related reasons as white women.

So, how can we help better support pregnant and post-partum people amidst these struggles? Today, we are delighted to discuss the topic of maternal health care with a true expert in the field: Byllye Avery, a longtime women’s health care activist and reproductive justice pioneer whose work has centered on improving the health of low-income Black women.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How Byllye Avery’s work as a health care activist and reproductive justice advocate has impacted maternal health, especially among low-income Black women
  • What partners, caregivers, and health care providers can do to help pregnant and postpartum women thrive
  • What effective postpartum treatment looks like
  • What improvements and research still need to be done in maternal health care

More about Byllye:

An activist for women’s health care and the welfare of Black women for more than 40 years, Byllye Avery points to the shock of her husband’s sudden death from a heart attack in 1970 as the catalyst for her work. Committed to improving health care and education in the Black community, Byllye began participating in consciousness-raising groups and legal abortion referral services.

Shocked at the limited access to abortion and maternal health needs that Black women experienced in her community, Byllye and her colleagues opened the Gainesville Women’s Health Center in 1974, the first abortion and gynecological care provider in the city. In 1978 came the opening of Birthplace, an alternative birthing center in Gainesville, which Byllye co-founded with her colleagues. Certified nurses and midwives supported women with deliveries, and Byllye herself personally assisted with births.

Byllye has written and spoken frequently about the negative impact of race, class, and sex on women’s health care. She refers to the health inequities between Black and white women as a “conspiracy of silence”[1].





Resources for Episode 011:

Important terms :

Gelpi retractor – A self-retaining retractor for holding back organs and tissues during surgical procedures.

Doula – refers to a woman, typically without formal obstetric training, who is employed to provide guidance and support to a pregnant woman during labor.

Birthing center – a place where people can give birth with medical equipment and trained helpers such as midwives, but not as much medical or surgical technology as a hospital.


References Mentioned:

[1]  While, Evelyn C. (1994). The Black women’s health book: speaking for ourselves. Seattle, WA: Seal. p. 6. ISBN 1878067400.

The primary purpose of this podcast is to educate and entertain. All views expressed by the persons featured on the Your Health Unlocked podcast are their own and do not reflect the opinions of the NWHN or its affiliates. Information provided in this podcast does not constitute medical advice. Consult your own provider for any medical issues that you may be experiencing.

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