Objective: To explore Black women's lived experiences of racism and the associated effects on reproductive health decisions and the reproductive health care experience.
Methods: We recruited participants through social media and community outreach. We conducted semi-structured individual interviews focusing on Black women's lived experiences of racism and their effects on reproductive health. We coded and analyzed interview transcripts using process coding methodology.
Results: Participants (N=21) were 21-45 years old and from Boston, Chicago, and Atlanta. Our primary themes were: 1) reproductive health racism across the life course, 2) anti-Black racism in the reproductive health care system, and 3) self-protective actions when interacting with the reproductive health care system. Reproductive racism across the life course included subthemes of early sexualization of Black women, heightened awareness of reproductive health inequities, and knowledge of reproductive oppression. Anti-Black racism in the reproductive health care system included subthemes of absence of shared decision making; vicarious reproductive health experiences; stereotyping, invalidation, and dismissal by reproductive health professionals; and medical mistrust. Participants guarded themselves against racism within reproductive health care by engaging in a variety of self-protective actions including seeking a health care professional of color, overpreparing for their appointments, enlisting advocates, seeking care only when desperate, and heightening symptoms to be heard.
Conclusion: Personal, vicarious, and historical experiences of racism within reproductive health care triggered participants to perform self-protective actions when interacting with the reproductive health care system. These actions served to promote safety, autonomy and rehumanization within a system that has historically and contemporarily devalued Black reproductive health.
Copyright © 2022 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.