Obstetric Racism: The Racial Politics of Pregnancy, Labor, and Birthing

Med Anthropol. 2019 Oct;38(7):560-573. doi: 10.1080/01459740.2018.1549389. Epub 2018 Dec 6.


In this article, I analyze the birth stories of Black women living in the United States. Their birth stories describe various forms of racism during medical encounters while they were pregnant or during labor and delivery. In the global women's health arena, the issues raised are viewed as obstetric violence. However, obstetric racism-as both an occurrence and analytic-best captures the particularities of Black women's reproductive care during the pre- and post-natal period. Obstetric racism is a threat to positive birth outcomes. I argue that birth workers including midwives and doulas, mediate obstetric racism and stratified reproductive outcomes.

Keywords: Black women; United States; labor and delivery; medical encounters; obstetric racism; pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anthropology, Medical
  • Black or African American / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Labor, Obstetric / ethnology*
  • Parturition / ethnology*
  • Politics
  • Pregnancy
  • Racism / ethnology*
  • United States
  • Women's Health