Black Pregnant Women "Get the Most Judgment": A Qualitative Study of the Experiences of Black Women at the Intersection of Race, Gender, and Pregnancy

Womens Health Issues. 2020 Nov-Dec;30(6):484-492. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2020.08.001. Epub 2020 Sep 6.

Abstract

Background: Pronounced racial disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes persist in the United States. Using an ecosocial and intersectionality framework and biopsychosocial model of health, we aimed to understand Black pregnant women's experiences of gendered racism during pregnancy.

Methods: We conducted semistructured interviews with 24 Black pregnant women in New Haven, Connecticut. We asked women about their experience of being pregnant, experiences of gendered racism, and concerns related to pregnancy and parenting Black children. Transcripts were coded by three trained analysts using grounded theory techniques.

Results: Women experienced gendered racism during pregnancy-racialized pregnancy stigma-in the form of stereotypes stigmatizing Black motherhood that devalued Black pregnancies. Women reported encountering assumptions that they had low incomes, were single, and had multiple children, regardless of socioeconomic status, marital status, or parity. Women encountered racialized pregnancy stigma in everyday, health care, social services, and housing-related contexts, making it difficult to complete tasks without scrutiny. For many, racialized pregnancy stigma was a source of stress. To counteract these stereotypes, women used a variety of coping responses, including positive self-definition.

Conclusions: Racialized pregnancy stigma may contribute to poorer maternal and infant outcomes by way of reduced access to quality health care; impediments to services, resources, and social support; and poorer psychological health. Interventions to address racialized pregnancy stigma and its adverse consequences include anti-bias training for health care and social service providers; screening for racialized pregnancy stigma and providing evidence-based coping strategies; creating pregnancy support groups; and developing a broader societal discourse that values Black women and their pregnancies.

MeSH terms

  • African Americans*
  • Child
  • Connecticut
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnant Women*
  • Qualitative Research
  • United States