Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder have found that Black and Latina women in the US were likely induced into labour based on White pregnant women's needs and not theirs.
The study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior of the American Sociological Association on Wednesday suggests that systemic racism could be influencing obstetrics in the United States.
The study found that between 1990 and 2017 the number of births in America where labor was instigated nearly tripled.
Researchers found that all three groups experienced similar increases in the rate of induced labour, but they said decisions regarding the women's treatment were probably influenced by the way White pregnant women are treated.
In a press release, Ryan Masters, an associate professor of Sociology at the University of Colorado Boulder and one of the authors of the study, stated that 'there are norms and assessments, behaviors, and institutional practices' which might be taken from the White population.
He added: 'This is incredibly worrying because it's institutional racism manifesting itself in these obstetric clinic practices.
The study used a sample of 41,1 million first-time births in the United States, which included 26,4 million White women, 6,2 million Black women, and 8,4 million Latinas. The data on births of White women came from all 50 US states. However, the data for Black women and Latina women were only from 43 and 47 state respectively. The study states that all groups are represented in Washington, DC.
High-risk pregnancy factors included maternal diabetes, hypertension and gestational obesity. Researchers found that more White women are induced into labour when risk factors are present in their population.
The study found that there was no strong correlation between the increased number of Black or Latina women who were induced to labor and the presence risk factors in their race or ethnicity.
The study states that 'the results suggest systemic racist may be shaping U.S. Obstetric Care whereby care isn't 'centered on the margins,' but instead is responsive to characteristics of state's White populations'.
The authors of the study said that their findings, while limited, are in line with "an extensive literature documenting healthcare inequity" in the US. The study shows that obstetrics care has not been focused on the needs Black and Latina women who are childbearing.
I hope that it will convince clinical practitioners and other professionals to pay attention to those who call for them to be aware of the way they can perpetuate unequal treatment, whether or not the intentions are malicious. Masters spoke about the ways in which institutional practices can perpetuate inequality.