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Bridging the Gap: Maternity Medical Care Disparities for Women of Color

Pregnant woman in a pink shirt visiting a doctor. The doctor has a stethoscope ip to the woman's belly.
Michael Bonamarte circle blog reviewed by

Content Reviewed by:
Michael F. Bonamarte, IV

Content Reviewed by: Michael F. Bonamarte, IV

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Since 2005, Michael Bonamarte IV has been a passionate advocate for victims of negligent conduct, corporate malfeasance, and medical malpractice. He has won numerous awards and recognitions, including Best Lawyers in America and Super Lawyers’ Rising Star. He has presented for the American Association for Justice, the AAJ Nursing Home Litigation Group, the John Marshall Law School, and numerous other legal associations. He regularly lectures at Chicago-area aging organizations about nursing home abuse. His writings have been published by the American Bar Association, the Chicago Daily Bulletin, and numerous other prestigious publications.

Bringing a child into the world should be a joyous occasion, yet for many expectant mothers, especially women of color, the experience is marred by disparities in maternity medical care. While the healthcare system is designed to provide equal care to all, the reality is starkly different. Studies have consistently shown a stark contrast in the quality of care received by expectant white mothers and women of color, highlighting a troubling disparity that cannot be ignored.

At Levin & Perconti, we want to shed light on the glaring disparity between maternity medical care received by expectant white mothers and women of color by delving into the alarming rates of mistreatment and exploring the pervasive role of discrimination and biases. Seth Cardeli, one of our birth injury lawyers, reviewed this article.

Rates of Mistreatment: A Disturbing Discrepancy

Shockingly, one in five U.S. women said they were mistreated during maternity care, according to a CDC study. Studies and reports have consistently shown that women of color, particularly Black and Indigenous women, experience significantly higher rates of mistreatment during pregnancy and childbirth. Mistreatment can take various forms, including disrespectful or dismissive behavior, lack of informed consent, neglect, and even verbal or physical abuse. Such experiences not only traumatize the mothers but can also lead to severe physical and emotional consequences, affecting both the mother and the newborn.

Discrimination and Bias: A Barrier to Quality Care

Discrimination and biases within the healthcare system, both explicit and implicit, play a detrimental role in the quality of maternity care received by women of color. Deep-rooted stereotypes and prejudices can lead healthcare providers to make assumptions about patients based on their race or ethnicity, affecting the way they are treated. Implicit biases, deeply ingrained in the minds of healthcare professionals, can impact decision-making, resulting in delayed or inadequate care, leading to adverse consequences for the expectant mother and her baby.

For women of color, these biases can be particularly pervasive. Studies have highlighted instances where healthcare providers underestimate the pain levels of Black patients, leading to inadequate pain management. Additionally, language barriers and cultural differences often exacerbate misunderstandings, further alienating patients from their providers.

Injuries Resulting from Negligent Maternity Medical Care

Negligent maternity medical care can result in a range of injuries for both the mother and the child. For mothers, injuries can include untreated infections, improper suturing leading to complications, and even severe psychological trauma due to mistreatment. Babies, too, are at risk, facing birth injuries such as cerebral palsy, Erb’s palsy, and even wrongful death due to medical negligence during childbirth. These injuries affect the immediate health of the mother and child and can have long-lasting implications, impacting their quality of life and overall well-being.

How Will We Bridge the Gap for a Brighter Future?

The glaring disparities in maternity medical care between expectant white mothers and women of color are a testament to the deeply entrenched issues within our healthcare system that demands urgent attention and systemic change. Discrimination and biases continue to hinder the provision of equal and respectful care, leading to alarming rates of mistreatment.

The CDC has launched a campaign called “Hear Her” to provide tools to improve communication between patients and their healthcare providers. This is just one small step forward.

We are advocates for justice here at Levin & Perconti, and we feel it is crucial for us to raise awareness about these disparities, challenge discriminatory practices, and support initiatives that promote inclusive and equitable maternity care for all. Only through collective efforts can we bridge the gap and ensure that every expectant mother receives the care and respect she deserves, regardless of her racial or ethnic background.

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