How can racism cause black mothers to kill their babies?
In February 2009, samantha Pierce was pregnant with twins. This is when things are going well in her life.
She and her husband have recently married. They have a good job.
“I was a community organizer kicking ass,” Pierce said. “he was African-American and lived in Cleveland. She has worked for a nonprofit that fights predatory lending. The group is growing and Pierce has been promoted to management.
It feels like a good time to get pregnant. “I went out and took out my birth control and came out two weeks later, like ‘hey, we’re pregnant! ‘she laughed.
Pierce thought she was a good child. She had a son who was married and was healthy and normal. She has a college degree, which is known as an opportunity to improve women’s health. She receives regular physical examinations and takes prenatal vitamins.
All went well until her second, third month, when she discovered she was leaking liquid. After a week in the hospital, her water broke and her water broke and she gave birth to her son. “Each of them lived for five minutes,” she said. “But they can’t breathe, they don’t have lungs, we have to hold them, talk to them, I can see them breathing, I can see them stop breathing, you know.
Pierce was destroyed. For months, she couldn’t bear to see herself in the mirror, especially her stomach. She felt that her womb was like a cemetery – “the grave,” she said. “This is evidence of a faltering, failing, untraceable child. I can’t even do one thing that I put on this planet. It’s a bear.”
The chilling statistics.
What samantha Pierce didn’t know was that her twins had become part of the chilling statistics. “Black babies in the United States die more than twice as likely as whites in their first year of life,” said OB GYN Arthur James of Ohio state university’s Wexner medical center. According to the latest data from the centers for disease control and prevention, 4.8 white babies die in the first year of every 1,000 live births. For black babies, the number is 11.7.
James said most of the babies who died from black babies were born prematurely, because black mothers such as pearce had a higher risk of premature birth.
Scientists and doctors have spent decades trying to understand what makes African American women vulnerable to losing babies. Now, more and more people believe that the racial discrimination that black mothers experience in their lifetime makes it less likely that they will bring their children to term.
James, 65, sees too many black babies to survive.
That’s not true, James said, and he’s African American. “You ask yourself this question: how do blacks make us more at risk for this experience?”
Decades of pursuit.
Richard David, a neonatologist at the university of Illinois at Chicago, has studied the problem for decades. When he first began studying the problem in the 1980s, he said that scientists believed the two main culprits were poverty and a lack of education.
“We know that African American women are more likely to be poor,” says David. “We know that when they have children, their education is very small.”
But at the time of David cook county hospital in Chicago and his colleagues at northwestern university school of medicine James Collins found that even with the education of the middle class African American women have a higher risk of preterm infants are less likely to survive.
For example, David said that black and white teenage mothers who grew up in poor neighborhoods had a higher risk of having a smaller premature baby. “They all have a 13 percent chance of having a baby with a low birth weight,” he said.
But in the region with higher income, women may be older, higher level of education, “in the white women, the risk of low birth weight have fallen sharply, to about half, and a little bit” risk of African-American women.
In fact, today, black women like samantha Pierce are more likely to give birth prematurely than white women with high school degrees.
“That’s the kind of thing that makes us ask this question: what else?” And David said. “What do we lack?
It is suggested that the root cause may be genetics. But if genes play a role, women from Africa will have the same risk. So David and his colleague Collins saw the babies of immigrant women from west Africa. But as they report in their 1997 study in the New England journal of medicine, these babies are more like white babies – they are bigger and more likely to be full term. So this is clearly not genetics, David said.
Then, years later, David and Collins noticed something surprising. The grandchildren of African immigrant women were born younger than their mothers. In other words, it may be too early for grandchildren to be more like African American babies.
The same is true of the grandchildren of black women who emigrated from the Caribbean.
Meanwhile, the grandchildren of European white immigrant women were born more than their mothers. David and Collins published their results in the American journal of epidemiology in 2002.
“So there’s something about black people who grew up in the United States, and then they have a child with a lower birth weight,” says David.
Blacks and women who grew up in the United States.
David: what’s the difference between black americans who grew up in the United States? “It’s hard to find, it’s not racial discrimination in any way,” he said. “Whether you’re talking about applying for a job, buying a new car, looking for a home, accepting education… Even with the same amount of education, the same amount of money won’t happen, and if you’re black, you tend to get less pay. ”
As NPR’s latest poll, the Robert wood Johnson foundation and TH harvard school of public health found that Chen, 92% of African americans believe that exists today in the United States discrimination against African americans. The survey found that higher education and income did not necessarily mean that people were less discriminated against.
In 2004, David and Collins published a study in the American journal of public health that reported on the relationship between maternal racism and preterm birth. They asked about women’s housing, income, health habits and discrimination. “It turns out that as a predictor of very low birth weight outcomes, these racial issues are more powerful than asking women whether they smoke,” David said.
Other studies have shown the same results.
Samantha Pierce didn’t know this when she was pregnant in 2009, but she did know about discrimination. The first time someone called her N, she was 7 or 8 years old. She went with her mother to mount Murray, in the Italian neighborhood of Cleveland.
Samantha Pierce works out at the hip-hop aerobics class at Naturally Gifted Fitness Center in Cleveland. Exercise is how she reacts to stress in life.
Pierce is now a certified personal trainer. She regularly trains with her friends to train most other African American women. Exercise provides a source of social support, and many black women say they don’t.
The Nust Dustin Franz
“We just drove,” she said. “We drove the car, literally down the window, and we were called nigger, just up the hill.”
Memories still make her angry. “It doesn’t matter if my mother has her own house,” pearce said. “It doesn’t matter that we have this car, because we have it, and I don’t want to go to a private school because I did it! When I rode Murray hill, I was a black slave, and so was my mother.
It wasn’t the only time she felt inferior because of black people. She felt it at school.
Pierce recalled that her mother had warned her in her childhood that she had to “work twice as hard as her whites,” she said.
Even in today’s work, she says, her mother’s words are the same.
Then there was racism every day, pearce said, just as the staff were in the shadow of the store, even though she was with a white friend. Pierce said her white friends didn’t even notice. ‘these things happen every day,’ she says.
Arthur James, of Ohio state, points out that black women tend to be major breadwinners and caregivers. This is partly because black men have higher incarceration rates and higher unemployment rates, he said. “This increases the burden on black women.” The burden, he says, and the pressure from discrimination will add up.
Stress and labor
When we are stressed, our bodies produce stress hormones. Stress hormones also disappear when stressors disappear. It’s a normal, healthy process. But when a person is always nervous, their bodies always have high levels of stress hormones.
Stress hormones are also naturally high in normal term labor. But if a woman is pregnant with high levels of stress hormones, she is more likely to be premature, James says.
“We believe that higher levels of stress hormones can increase the incidence of preterm birth,” he said.
A few months later, she lost her first set of twins, and samantha pearce was pregnant with the seven-year-old Camryn and Caedyn. She was bedridden for the pregnancy.
When samantha pearce first learned this, in the years after the twins died, it was like a light bulb went out. “Stress leads to labor,” she said. “African American women are under more pressure.” “So we hit it at an amazing speed.”
Pierce is pregnant again. This time, she was a twin, too. She was confined to bed, but the pregnancy went well. Her twins – a boy and a girl – are now seven years old and healthy.
In these days, Pierce’s mission is to counter the pressure of a generation of black women and her daughters. And she used it as a weapon. She and other women regularly work out at the gym in Cleveland. She is now a certified personal trainer. Her clients are mostly African-American women.
She says exercise isn’t just about getting fit. It can also provide social support, and many black women feel they lack such support.
“We’re really hard on ourselves,” Pierce said. “So we really need other women, especially other black women, to say, ‘I see you, you’re doing great, moving on.’ ”
Pierce can’t change how society treats black women. But she is trying to change the way black women cope with stress. If they can make their bodies more resilient, they may give their babies a better chance of survival.