The Ethics of Perinatal Care for Black Women: Dismantling the Structural Racism in "Mother Blame" Narratives

J Perinat Neonatal Nurs. 2019 Apr/Jun;33(2):108-115. doi: 10.1097/JPN.0000000000000394.


Perinatal and neonatal nurses have a critical role to play in effectively addressing the disproportionate prevalence of adverse pregnancy outcomes experienced by black childbearing families. Upstream inequities in maternal health must be better understood and addressed to achieve this goal. The importance of maternal health before, during, and after pregnancy is illustrated with the growing and inequitable prevalence of 2 common illnesses, pregestational diabetes and chronic hypertension, and 2 common conditions during and after pregnancy, gestational diabetes and preterm birth. New care models are needed and must be structured on appropriate ethical principles for serving black families in partnership with nurses. The overarching purpose of this article is to describe the ethics of perinatal care for black women; to discuss how social determinants of health, health disparities, and health inequities affecting women contribute to poor outcomes among their children; and to provide tools to dismantle structural racism specific to "mother blame" narratives." Finally, strategies are presented to enhance the provision of ethical perinatal care for black women by nurses.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Equity
  • Healthcare Disparities / ethnology*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Health*
  • Narrative Therapy
  • Needs Assessment
  • Neonatal Nursing / organization & administration
  • Nurse's Role
  • Perinatal Care / ethics*
  • Postnatal Care / ethics
  • Pregnancy
  • Racism / economics
  • Racism / ethnology*
  • United States