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Racism in Maternal Health and the Outcomes

Maternal health is an essential indicator of the quality of life, and it is disturbing that Black women in the US have worse maternal health outcomes. Recent studies published by Wiley Online Library show that systemic racism and prejudice in US healthcare institutions have caused significant medical and maternity disparities for Black women (Suarez 1-12). Black mothers receive less care and have worse results than white mothers. Long-term health difficulties and reduced quality of life may result. Despite well-documented racial disparities in maternal health outcomes, nothing has been done. To eliminate these discrepancies, institutional and cultural impediments must be addressed. The elimination involves culturally appropriate care, healthcare access, and medical practitioner unconscious bias elimination. This article examines US maternal health disparities by race, their causes, and possible solutions. This paper examines US maternal health outcomes by race. Second, the essay will discuss how systemic racism and bias in US healthcare systems affect maternal health outcomes. Finally, the essay will discuss solutions.

First, according to ( Conradt et al. 208-214), the US healthcare system’s systematic racism and prejudice raise Black women’s maternal mortality risk. Racial differences in maternal health outcomes are due to structural and cultural barriers that impede African American women from accessing equitable care. Black women have a higher maternal death rate due to medical bias and discrimination. African American women are more likely than white women to be undertreated for pain, receive inadequate prenatal care, and have more severe medical conditions, which can increase mortality. Due to insurance coverage, transportation, financial, and linguistic challenges, Black women have reduced access to adequate healthcare. Research shows that racism and bigotry affect African American women’s healthcare. Medical providers’ implicit bias worsens black patients’ medical results and mortality rates. To reduce these inequities and improve maternal health outcomes, Black women must overcome institutional and cultural barriers to care.

Second, institutional racism and unequal healthcare cause Black women to have more premature births (Walani 31-33). Black women have more premature births due to healthcare inequities. Pregnant women from low-income families sometimes lack access to appropriate prenatal care and screenings that can uncover problems early in the pregnancy. For a healthy pregnancy, financial constraints can limit access to healthful food. Black preterm births may also be caused by illiteracy. Less educated women are more likely to use their health resources and not comprehend the necessity of prenatal care. Women may delay or miss prenatal appointments and screenings if they do not understand their value. Black women may also receive substandard care due to healthcare-related racial discrimination. According to studies, black women are less likely to obtain adequate pain management and have their concerns ignored by doctors.

The US healthcare system’s systematic racism and prejudice are the leading cause of Black women’s higher maternal morbidity rate in the country (Noursi, Bani & Richey 661-669). The disparity in maternal outcomes between Black and White women results from racial discrimination, unconscious bias in medical care, and inadequate access to high-quality healthcare. Racial differences in maternal health outcomes are significantly exacerbated by unconscious bias among medical professionals. Additionally, Black patients’ complaints are more frequently dismissed by medical professionals or given less attention, negatively impacting their health. Limited access to high-quality healthcare is another factor raising maternal morbidity’s prevalence among Black women. Due to financial limitations, a lack of insurance coverage, and restricted access to healthcare facilities, lower-income Black women frequently cannot obtain the same level of healthcare as white women.

US newborn death rates are shockingly racist. According to the CDC, black infants die twice the rate of white infants (Dagher and Linares 394). The South and Midwest have a more significant discrepancy. Poor prenatal care, racial prejudice, and other socioeconomic issues contribute to the discrepancy. Poor prenatal care contributes to the racial infant mortality gap. Black women’s health treatment is hampered by racism and medical bias. Black women are seen living in poorer areas with less food and resources. Also, Infant mortality increases with malnutrition and prenatal neglect.

According to (Antoine and Young 5-16), Black American women have more cesarean sections than White women. Cesarean sections are extensive surgeries that can increase mother and child mortality. The racial disparity in cesarean sections is likely due to unconscious bias among medical providers and racial discrimination that leads to Black women receiving different care than white women. ACOG has identified numerous factors that may contribute to the racial discrepancy in cesarean sections (Hamm et al. 143-151). These include provider and patient unconscious biases, limited access to care, and quality disparities. The provider’s unconscious bias may lead to the belief that Black women need cesarean sections. Provider’s unconscious bias can also cause a lack of confidence between the patient and caregiver, preventing the patient from receiving necessary care.

African American women’s restricted medical services contribute to racial inequity. The US healthcare system’s structural biases and prejudices cause this. Throughout history, individuals of Black American descent have experienced marginalization from healthcare services based on their racial identity. The systematic exclusion has resulted in insufficient insurance coverage and restricted availability of high-quality healthcare services, particularly for individuals residing in rural or underprivileged areas. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) aimed to mitigate the healthcare access disparity between Black and white Americans, as indicated by Neiman et al. (102-109).

Nonetheless, several states have not succeeded in broadening Medicaid, resulting in many African American women lacking health insurance coverage. In addition, Black women frequently encounter impediments to healthcare access despite possessing health insurance coverage, including local provider networks, extended wait periods, and challenges in securing appointments. The ramifications of restricted availability of healthcare services are severe. Research indicates that Black women are disproportionately diagnosed with severe medical conditions at advanced stages compared to their White counterparts, resulting in inferior health outcomes.

Healthcare practitioners’ unconscious biases can affect Black women’s treatment. Prejudice is a set of negative preconceived thoughts or attitudes toward a group based on erroneous stereotypes (Ladegaard 191-203). Since antiquity, prejudice has taken many forms. Prejudice in healthcare can take many forms, such as doctors not believing patients’ symptoms or treating individuals of colour differently. Unconscious bias is when someone holds a wrong opinion of a group without realizing it. Unconscious bias can affect hiring, intellect, and healthcare for individuals of colour. Lack of diversity, cultural competence, and awareness of healthcare system biases might perpetuate unconscious bias. Personal experiences or views about a group can cause unconscious bias. A healthcare provider may dislike a group based on personal experiences or opinions.

There may be misunderstandings and misinterpretations between Black women and healthcare professionals due to cultural differences. Black women and healthcare professionals may misinterpret one another due to cultural disparities. Black women frequently come from diverse backgrounds and have different life experiences than healthcare professionals, which can cause a lack of trust and understanding. For instance, due to cultural taboos or a lack of awareness, Black women might not feel comfortable discussing specific health issues with a practitioner. Additionally, healthcare professionals must know the social determinants affecting health outcomes or the cultural context of particular problems. Language differences can sometimes be a concern. English is a second language for many Black women, which can cause misunderstandings and confusion. As the patient might feel uncomfortable discussing their medical concerns in a language they need help understanding, this can also result in a lack of trust. The last factor in healthcare disparities is cultural preconceptions. Healthcare professionals can have preconceived views about Black women and their medical requirements, undermining trust and understanding, resulting in a lack of interest in the patient’s treatment and empathy.

There must be ways to stop the emergency of racial disparities in maternal health organizations, given the causes of racial disparities. The gaps in medical care and maternity outcomes for Black women must be eliminated, which requires providing culturally acceptable care. Equitable treatment must be given while considering the patient’s cultural and religious heritage. Equitable treatment entails awareness of potential language difficulties and comprehending their patients’ values, attitudes, and beliefs. For instance, specific therapies might be prohibited by particular religious convictions. Healthcare professionals must know this, inform patients appropriately, and treat them respectfully. Providers should also be mindful of any potential language obstacles. Healthcare professionals should hire a translator or interpreter to help them interact with a patient if they do not speak English. Providers must be aware of the particular requirements and circumstances that Black women face.

Increasing Black women’s access to healthcare is a crucial first step in providing them equitable care. Health outcomes are significantly influenced by access to healthcare, particularly for people living in underprivileged areas. Healthcare providers may ensure that Black women can access the required treatment by offering more convenient and inexpensive options. Telemedicine can enhance healthcare access. Telemedicine, remote healthcare, has gained popularity due to its practicality and affordability. Telemedicine helps black women avoid travel and save money.

Black patients’ care can be affected by healthcare providers’ unconscious bias. Unconscious bias is held opinions and attitudes. Media, cultural preconceptions, and past experiences can create these prejudices. Unconscious prejudices can lead to unequal healthcare for Black patients, resulting in poorer outcomes and quality of life. Black individuals may not receive the same attention as white patients and may be ignored when they describe their concerns. Healthcare practitioners must recognize unconscious prejudices to address this issue, including being mindful of stereotypes, prejudices, and the patient’s requirements and preferences. Providers should also be more sensitive and aware of cultural differences with their patients. Healthcare providers should also promote diversity and inclusion. Diversity and inclusion include hiring and training a diverse staff and teaching providers about cultural competency, allowing healthcare personnel to treat all patients equally.

In conclusion, society must address Black-white medical disparities and maternal outcomes for a more fair society. The racial disparities require eliminating systematic racism and bias in US healthcare institutions. Culturally appropriate care, improving healthcare access, and eliminating medical providers’ unconscious biases can achieve this. These actions are the only way to ensure all women receive equal treatment and good maternal outcomes. Addressing systemic racism and prejudice in US healthcare systems will take time and effort from all parties. Healthcare facilities lessen these inequities and establish a more just and equitable society by removing structural and cultural barriers prohibiting Black women from receiving equitable care.

Works Cited

Antoine, Clarel, and Bruce K. Young. “Cesarean section one hundred years 1920–2020: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” Journal of Perinatal Medicine 49.1 2021: 5–16.

Conradt, Elisabeth, Sierra E. Carter, and Sheila E. Crowell. “Biological embedding of chronic stress across two generations within marginalized communities.” Child Development Perspectives 14.4 (2020): 208-214.

Dagher, Rada K., and Deborah E. Linares. “A critical review on the complex interplay between social determinants of health and maternal and infant mortality.” Children 9.3 2022: 394.

Hamm, Rebecca F., et al. “Addressing disparities in care on labor and delivery.” Current Obstetrics and Gynecology Report 11.3 2022: 143–151.

Ladegaard, Hans J. “Constructing the cultural other: Prejudice and stereotyping.” The Routledge Handbook of Language and intercultural communication. Routledge, 2020. 191–203. ISBN9781003036210

Neiman, Pooja U., et al. “The affordable care act at ten years: evaluating the evidence and navigating an uncertain future.” Journal of Surgical Research 263 2021: 102–109.

Noursi, Samia, Bani Saluja, and Leah Richey. “Using the ecological systems theory to understand Black/White disparities in maternal morbidity and mortality in the United States.” Journal of Racial and ethnic health disparities 8 2021: 661–669.

Suarez, Alicia. “Black midwifery in the United States: Past, present, and future.” Sociology Compass 14.11 2020: 1–12.

Walani, Salimah R. “Global burden of preterm birth.” International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics 150.1 2020: 31–33.


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