Racism May Affect Maternal Health of African American Women

Maternal Health

Racism Affects Maternal Health Of Black Women

Seems like racism is even more insidious than most could imagine. High maternal mortality rates in African American women appear to be caused by the stress of dealing with racism in daily life:

According to Women’s eNews, African American women “are three-to-six more likely to die during pregnancy and the six weeks after delivery than U.S. white and Latina women.” This statistic applies to women on all levels of education and income. There are some studies that maintain black women who are highly educated and have a middle income are actually at higher risk.

Although African American women comprise 12 percent of the female population in this country, they represent almost half of the maternal mortalities.

Women’s eNews states that black women are the least likely (I imagine this is in comparison to other groups), to breastfeed a child exclusively at six months. Among the other benefits, nursing reportedly reduces a woman’s risk of getting breast and ovarian cancers – diseases that African American are more vulnerable to contracting.

I think this kind of report is important because it shows just how insidious racism is. People like to dismiss racism as not that big a deal, but what this study shows is that it is a very big deal and can affect all aspects of a perosn’s life.

Similar to poverty, racism is corrosive and dramatically affect the lives of those who experience it. Something as mundane and serious as pregnancy can be dangerous for those who expereince the damaging effects of racism regularly. Or, to put it another way, being black or non-white is detrimental to one’s health.

Let that sink in. Simply being born non-white in a racist society can have such damaging effects to all aspects of one life, and there’s no “cure” for it since you can’t magically change your skin color. I’d like to see more studies like this as it changes the conversation surrounding racism from simply being a social issue, but being a health one as well.


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