Systemic racism may be behind the higher rates of induced labor of Black and Latina mothers in the U.S., according to a new study.
Published in the American Sociological Association’s Journal of Health and Social Behavior, the study was conducted by researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder. In their findings, they reported that systemic racism may play a part in forming the obstetric care system in the U.S.
To conduct the study, they analyzed over 40 million birth records provided by the National Vital Statistics Systems. According to the study, the records showed that induced labor tripled between 1990 and 2017. When looking at the experiences of the pregnant women, the researchers reported that, although the groups represented in the study all saw an increase in induced labor, the induced labor of Black and Latina mothers did not depend on the care of the patients.
Whereas the induced labor of white women depended on the increase in high-risk pregnancies and childbirth, the reports showed no association between such risks and the increase of induced labor amongst Black and Latina mothers.
According to the researchers, the lack of association may reveal that decisions in the maternal healthcare system may depend on trends based on how white women were treated.
“The U.S. medical system has a long history of centering care on the needs of dominant or majority populations, i.e. white patients, rather than considering the specific needs of marginalized populations,” said lead researcher Andrea M. Tilstra per a statement released by the University of Colorado. “Our results show systemic racism is also shaping U.S. obstetric care.”
Previous studies have already determined that Black women are more likely to suffer from mistreatment by medical healthcare professionals during childbirth. According to a report in the Women’s Health Reports, surveys have shown that racism and implicit bias has affected the decisions of clinicians when it came to Black mothers; amongst the disparities were increased unethical UTOX screenings and limiting of support persons during childbirth.
Overall, Black mothers have the highest maternal mortality rate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women are three times more likely than white women to pass away during childbirth. Complications during pregnancy that contribute to this increased mortality rate include pregnancy-related cardiomyopathy issues and blood pressure problems. Per the Population Reference Bureau, Black women are five times more likely to pass away from these health issues.