Black women remain significantly more likely to lose a baby in the first year of life than white women across education, wealth and other factors. And the alarming fact remains a medical mystery.
The Seattle Times reports the following staggering statistics:
A college-educated black woman in the United States is more likely to lose her baby than a white woman with only a high school education..
A black woman who does not smoke has worse birth outcomes than a white woman who smokes.
An African-American woman who starts prenatal care in her first trimester is more likely to lose her baby than a white woman with late or no prenatal care.
As infant mortality declines, the gap between black and white women does not.
“Race in America puts your pregnancy at risk,” says Ilise Zimmerman, CEO of the Northern New Jersey Maternal-Child Health Consortium, according to the Times. “It’s not about poverty. It’s not about teenage pregnancy. It’s not about use of drugs. If you self-identify as black, there’s a greater chance your baby will be born before full term and be too small.”
A big factor in the gap is that African-American women are more prone to early labor before the pregnancy has reached full term, and also more likely to have babies that have higher risks because of their small size. Poverty, chronic health issues and lack of health care play a part, but even when those items are neutral the difference remains.
A more nuanced response is the impact of stress, including the realities of being black in the U.S.
For black women, 16 percent went into labor before they were due in New Jersey during 2006, where only 10 percent of white women began labor, the state reports.
“If you’re looking at black women making $100,000 a year, and white women making $100,000 a year, black women are twice as likely to deliver early,” says Yvonne Wesley, a health care consultant. “Regardless of their age, education, income or marital status, black women are more than twice as likely to deliver a baby prematurely.”
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