Monday, October 24, 2016

Racial Birth Disparities

By: Lavender Moon

In the United States, Black infants have significantly worse birth outcomes than do White infants. The cause of these persisting racial disparities remains unexplained. Most extant studies focus on differential exposures to protective and risk factors during pregnancy, such as current socioeconomic status, maternal risky behaviors, prenatal care, psychosocial stress, or perinatal infections. These risk factors during pregnancy, however, do not adequately account for the disparities.  Future research on racial disparities in birth outcomes needs to examine differential exposures to risk and protective factors not only during pregnancy, but over the life course of women. Eliminating disparities requires interventions and policy development that are more longitudinally and contextually integrated than currently prevail.
In my birth work, I have assisted more than 90 women giving birth; and have touched the lives of more than 300 women on their childbirth journey.
As a woman and mother of color who is also a birth worker in an inner city, I am convinced there are more women of color who struggle to find continuity of care with a care provider they can relate to, learn from, and be empowered by. Over the last 7 years as a Birth and Postpartum Doula; I have worked in community doula programs throughout Chicago in some of the poorest areas within Chicago city limits AND I’ve worked with mothers in the Gold Coast, Lakeview, Evanston, and Lincoln Park areas of Chicago. The differences of level of care and opportunities presenting for better birthing is so vastly different between the two. If I gave you case studies on families from each area in Chicago the revelation of differences is evident.
Typically, what I’ve experienced in my personal life is this: while pregnant with my second baby in 2008, I was labeled ‘high-risk’ before I got started with a urine test or any blood work. The Obstetrician I was seeing told me I was ‘high risk,’ She was an Obstetrician in a private practice group and once she saw my face, called me ‘high risk’ without ever screening me to rule out or rule in why or how I was high risk. When I asked and questioned, she threatened in a passive aggressive way a referral to her in-office psychologist. (Clearly, something was wrong with me for asking questions about my new found ‘high risk’ status).