As beautiful as motherhood can be, there are particular risks for Black women that can sometimes contribute to a dangerous outcome. Yesterday, a new report from the Center For American Progress shared results that linked the maternal and infant mortality rates among Black women to the stresses caused by racism, according to Colorlines.
As more conversation about the health effects of discrimination keeps popping up, new dialogue about the ways Black mothers are treated medically also continues to come to the forefront. Last month, athlete and new mother Serena Williams shared her experience with post-childbirth health complications, which resulted in surgery to remove blood clots in her lungs that could have been avoided had her nurses acted sooner.
The report's authors, Cristina Novoa and Jamila Taylor, laid out statistics that compared various racial groups of mothers and their infant children, tying the findings to the real effects of racism.
African American mothers are dying at three to four times the rate of non-Hispanic white mothers, and infants born to African American mothers are dying at twice the rate as infants born to non-Hispanic white mothers. These two trends hold true across education levels and socioeconomic status.
In the report, they make it clear that these statistics remain consistently higher than other races while keeping physical health, socioeconomic status and various levels of access to healthcare in mind. The continued stress associated with racial inequality, employment and housing discrimination, police brutality, lack of representation, and hate crimes all are contributors to a stressful environment.
Given the United States’ climate of racial inequality, African American women are more likely to experience stress during sensitive periods in early life and to be chronically exposed to stress. One would therefore expect women spared the stresses of American racial inequality during sensitive early developmental periods to have better outcomes.
The report also tackles racism at the institutional level, and the diminished quality of healthcare Black women often receive due to a lack of proper access as well as long-held misconceptions about Black patients' ability to endure pain.
The impacts of institutional racism and sexism compromise women’s health across time, leading to poorer outcomes for African American women and infants. A fractured and unequal health care system and gaps in health workforce training further aggravate these racial disparities.
You can read the full report here.