"Black Nurses in the Home is Working": Advocacy, Naming, and Processing Racism to Improve Black Maternal and Infant Health

Matern Child Health J. 2022 Apr;26(4):933-940. doi: 10.1007/s10995-021-03283-4. Epub 2021 Nov 24.


Objectives: 1) To explore how racism-related stress impacts Black women's health, pregnancy, and parenting. 2) To explore how a culturally-specific program affects the relationship between racism-related stress and Black women's health, pregnancy, and parenting.

Methods: This qualitative study uses a Black Feminist approach to center the lived experiences and perspectives of Black women. Focus groups were conducted with clients and staff of a culturally-specific program that provides perinatal care for Black families. A thematic analysis was conducted using a Reproductive Justice framework as a guide.

Results: Participants consisted of 23 program clients and staff who all identified as Black women. Four themes emerged from the analysis: 1) The pervasive reach of structural racism, 2) Shared identities facilitate trust and healing, 3) Racism directly impacts mental health, and 4) Advocacy on macro and micro levels is a vital service.

Conclusions for practice: Results show the chronicity and toxicity of structural racism on Black women's physical and mental health. The presence of overt and subtle forms of racism occur in multiple systems and require interventions on macro- and micro-levels. Culturally-specific perinatal care programs that prioritize racial concordance between providers and clients/patients are well-received and effective models of care. Black perinatal care should include culturally-specific approaches, advocacy on behalf of and alongside Black people, mental health support with attention to racism-related stress, and interrogation of implicit bias. Multipronged interventions guided by Reproductive Justice principles provide a holistic framework to address interpersonal and systemic racial oppression.

Keywords: Advocacy; Culturally-specific program; Perinatal healthcare; Racism-related stress; Reproductive Justice.

MeSH terms

  • Black People
  • Black or African American / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Health
  • Pregnancy
  • Qualitative Research
  • Racism*