Updated: Dec 30, 2020
Stress and anxiety seem, at times, to be inescapable aspects of life. For some, stress might be caused by work, school, or even tense interpersonal relationships. As Black women, we are constantly aware of another, more encompassing, source of stress: racism. In the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, eradicating racism has “suddenly” become an international priority. For Black people, racism has always impacted how we live our lives. But can stress really change the health outcomes of pregnancies?
As Black women, 14.38% of our pregnancies result in preterm births compared to a preterm birth rate of 9.26% among white women. Research reports that Black women are more likely to be subjected to “chronic stressors” such as poverty and racism. These stressors can manifest into poor birth outcomes and may account for racial health disparities. In the later months of pregnancy these “chronic stressors” can even begin to impact the health of the mother and child, and in extreme cases result in a shock reaction.
So what can we do? How can we decrease the stress of Black women during pregnancy and birth? Various researchers have discovered that resources of support and coping methods have shown to reduce stress levels. By building supportive communities for ourselves from conception to delivery we can heal mentally and physically. Moreover, a trend towards home births also proves an effective alternative to systemically unequal hospital systems.
Sources: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3901405/ (2014)