Study: Racism Leads to Premature Birth and Infant Deaths in Black Women

By Free Radical

A recent npr.org story revealed research linking racial discrimination to Black women’s higher risks of premature births and infant deaths.

According to the most recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for every 1,000 births of Black babies, 11.7 will die in their first year of life. The rate is just 4.8 for White families. The majority of infants who died were born premature.

For a long time, scientists reasoned that the disparity was attributed to White women’s comparative socioeconomic and educational privilege. Researchers found that White women in more affluent neighborhoods experienced far fewer low birthweight pregnancies than White women who loved in poorer areas. However, Black women who lived in wealthier neighborhoods did not enjoy far fewer low birthweight pregnancies than Black women in less economically secure communities.

According to NPR, “a college-educated Black woman… is more likely to give birth prematurely than a white woman with a high school degree.”

Some scientists have attributed this discrepancy to genetics. However, a study of West African immigrant mothers published in 1997 showed they gave birth to babies that were heavier and more likely to have withstood a full term of pregnancy. However a follow up study showed that the grandchildren of African immigrant women were similar to African-American babies in having low birthweights and a tendency to be born premature. The children of European immigrant women did not show a comparative drop in birthweight and terms of pregnancy.

Based on these results, scholars have theorized that racism, be it structural dislocations or everyday microagressions, is the culprit.

According to the science, stress produces stress hormones. Women who are pregnant already produce high levels of stress hormones, and the added pressures of discrimination makes women more likely to go into labor prematurely.

For more on this story and how Black women are fighting this phenomenon, click here.

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