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Black women want to find a Black ob-gyn—but it’s a struggle

A small study of Black women indicates they’re worried about adverse health effects and dying when treated by a white ob-gyn.
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Black women want, but may struggle to find, a Black ob-gyn, according to a small study presented Wednesday at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s annual meeting in Maryland.

Thirty-two women who identified as Black or African American spoke to researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for a qualitative study aimed at exploring “Black birthing people’s lived experiences with obstetric care and their perspectives on having an obstetric care provider who is also Black.”

The interviewees—mean age of 34, 63% married, and 72% with a bachelor’s degree or higher—expressed not feeling heard and being stereotyped when receiving obstetric care. They also reported a fear of dying while pregnant or during childbirth.

“This one nurse…kept asking me, ‘Do I need a social worker?’ ‘Do I need WIC?’” one participant told researchers. “And I’m like, what, what in my profile is making you ask these questions, are these normal questions? Or are you asking me this because I’m Black?”

Black birthing people in the US are 2-3x more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, according to data from the CDC. Black women are also more likely to experience health disparities and die from cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke, certain cancers, and other conditions, per Boston University. They’re also systematically undertreated for pain—which the researchers believe could be alleviated with better access to Black and diverse ob-gyns.

“What is novel about our study is there is very limited rigorous research looking at the issue from the patient perspective and what increased diversity in obstetric providers might mean for health outcomes for Black birthing people,” Nicole Teal, the study’s lead author and a maternal-fetal medicine subspecialist at UC San Diego Health, said in a statement. “Other strategies recommended by our study participants included increasing continuity with prenatal care providers, eradicating stereotypes of Black mothers, and increasing respectful care in general.”

Navigate the healthcare industry

Healthcare Brew covers pharmaceutical developments, health startups, the latest tech, and how it impacts hospitals and providers to keep administrators and providers informed.