Hulu’s new documentary Aftershock looks at the shockingly high disparity in post-natal morbidity rates that Black woman face, compared to their white counterparts.
Directors Tonya Lewis Lee and Paula Eiselt look at the preventable deaths of 30-year-old Shamony Gibson, who died in 2019 after the birth of her son, and Amber Rose Isaac, who was just 26 when she died in 2020 after an emergency cesarean section to deliver her son, Elias.
“In December 2019, Shamony’s family… held what they called ‘Aftershock’—which was a celebration of Shamony’s life and also a conversation with the community about what was happening around Black maternal health,” Lewis Lee told Molly Jong-Fast. “Being a Black woman giving birth is like being a Black man at a traffic stop… often Black people are viewed suspiciously or as if they don’t know anything.”
“The heart and soul of this film are two women, Shamony Gibson and Amber Rose Isaac. These two women were healthy, beautiful women, in their twenties when they became pregnant and died preventable deaths due to childbirth,” Eiselt said.
The directors said the good news is that there is a lot that can be done to help this maternal morbidity crisis among Black women.
“Every other industrialized country has midwives except for the U.S. and their [mortality] rates are much better,” Eiselt said. “Another huge difference in our system is we do not have postpartum care. A woman has a baby and you are sent home and she can see her doctor six weeks later, if you can even make that appointment. In other countries, women are seen a few days after birth or a week after birth. The care continues.”
Eiselt said the U.S. should be focused on establishing more midwifery schools.
“We should not be striving to survive birth. We should be striving to thrive in birth and to have great births,” she said.