Exposures to structural racism and racial discrimination among pregnant and early post-partum Black women living in Oakland, California

Stress Health. 2020 Apr;36(2):213-219. doi: 10.1002/smi.2922. Epub 2020 Jan 23.


Research supports that exposure to stressors (e.g., perceived stress and racism) during pregnancy can negatively impact the immune system, which may lead to infection and ultimately increases the risk for having a preterm or low-birthweight infant. It is well known that Black women report higher levels of stressors at multiple timepoints across pregnancy compared with women of all other racial and ethnic groups. This study addresses gaps in the literature by describing pregnant and early post-partum Black women's exposures to structural racism and self-reported experiences of racial discrimination, and the extent to which these factors are related. We used a cross-sectional study design to collect data related to exposures to racism from pregnant and early post-partum Black women residing in Oakland, California, from January 2016 to December 2017. Comparative analysis revealed that living in highly deprived race + income neighborhoods was associated with experiencing racial discrimination in three or more situational domains (p = .01). Findings show that Black women are exposed to high levels of racism that may have negative impacts on maternal health outcomes.

Keywords: Black women; pregnancy; racial discrimination; structural racism.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • California
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnant Women / psychology*
  • Premature Birth
  • Racism / statistics & numerical data*
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Self Report
  • Stress, Psychological / ethnology*
  • Young Adult