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Black women in the U.S. are more likely than white women to be pressured into birthing procedures without their explicit consent, according to a new study.
Recently published in the medical journal Birth, the new study conducted by researchers from the University of British Columbia’s Birth Place Lab and the University of California San Francisco looked at data from a previous study, titled “Giving Voice to Mothers,” that surveyed 2,700 on their experiences giving birth; to supplement the data, they also looked at information from an additional survey that included 2,490 participants who spoke about their pregnancy experience.
As part of the results of the study, the researchers found that Black women dealt with coercion at more than twice the rate of white women when giving birth and receiving care after.
According to the results of the study, Black women were forced to undergo unconsented procedures 89% more often than white women while receiving perinatal care. During natural birth, they were also found to undergo procedures without their explicit consent 87% more often than white women. These procedures included the administration of drugs to speed up labor, epidurals and fetal monitoring.
As for c-sections, although no one racial or ethnic group experienced more pressure to get one, Black women were found to have been administered the procedure at higher rates as, overall, doctors were found to accept the decisions of white patients more than those of Black patients.
“These findings are alarming given the long history of obstetric racism and higher rates of adverse birth outcomes among Black, Indigenous and people of color in the U.S.,” said one of the authors, Dr. Rachel G. Logan, to UBC News. “They suggest that provider pressure and lack of consent processes may be playing a significant role in driving these inequities.”
Overall, Black women are reported to experience the most disparities when it comes to maternal health. According to the latest data provided by the CDC in a 2022 report, the mortality rate for Black women in the U.S. was three times higher than that of white women. According to the same report, for every 1,000 births, an average of 55 Black women were calculated as passing away.
After delivering, Black women were also found to deal with serious health issues at higher rates than any other race and ethnic group. According to a 2018 study, Black women deal with the highest rates of risk of unexpected health issues after giving birth, also known as severe maternal morbidity.
While the risk for severe maternal morbidity for white women was found to be 20.7%, the risk for Black women was calculated to be about 26.6%. The issues that the women reported included postpartum hemorrhaging, getting a hysterectomy and requiring transfusions.
Health inequities that contribute to these disparities include structural racism in medicine, lack of representation in the field, lack of access to transportation and insurance, according to the American Medical Association.