More evidence of a racial divide in the United States is seriously bad news for black moms and their babies.
According to new research, black women are 1.5 times more likely to give birth prematurely, which can lead to a slew of health issues for their children. Black infants are more than twice as likely to die before their first birthday than their white counterparts.
Low birth weight and premature births are the primary cause of infant deaths. Infants who suffer from either scenario and survive then face the possibility of lifelong health problems.
The riskier odds for black women and their children isn't a new finding, but researchers had long blamed the increased illness and mortality rate among black children on poor prenatal care. Now, it turns out that might not be the whole story.
According to Kay Johnson, head of the advisory committee on infant mortality for the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, black women "are coming into the pregnancy at higher risk." An increased likelihood of economic hardship, lack of health care, and chronic health conditions like diabetes and obesity means that the odds may be stacked against black women long before they even get pregnant.
According to the study, social factors like higher stress levels could also play a part. Researchers found that even highly educated black women faced riskier pregnancies than less educated white women.
Erin Saleeby, director of women's health programs for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services said "While there are all these medical risk factors, there are a whole bunch of other social risks...The medical side of it will never be enough."
Experts are hoping that preventive care, health insurance, and family planning provided by changes to the national health care system will help bridge the racial gap for black mothers and their children.