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Racial Disparity Before, During and After Pregnancy – Blog 2 of 6

Posted by on February 15th, 2018

“She Brightens the Future.” By Tyrell Charles via unsplash.com, October 24, 2017, CCO.

Our last blog post brought you the story of Shalon Irving, the CDC epidemiologist who died just a few short weeks after giving birth to her daughter.  Shalon’s story is tragic and brings to light a bigger issue.  Black women are dying of pregnancy related causes at 3x the rate of other races.  In this blog, we will examine two issues specific to black women and how it impacts fertility for this population:  weathering and uterine fibroids.

Age can influence one’s ability to get pregnant and the risk of complications increase the older a woman is when she becomes pregnant.  But what if a woman’s chronological age number does not match up with their biological age?  In the NPR article, a 2010 study that examined the chromosomal markers for aging found that at a molecular level, black women  were on average 7.5 years older than their white counterparts.  This was deemed likely due to “weathering” a term coined by one of the researchers of the study.  Weathering describes the stress the body experiences throughout life.

Uterine fibroids also make getting pregnant challenging for black women.  MedlinePlus defines uterine fibroids as “the most common benign tumors in women of childbearing age. Fibroids are made of muscle cells and other tissues that grow in and around the wall of the uterus, or womb. The cause of fibroids is unknown. Risk factors include being African American or being overweight.”  The site also goes on to list possible symptoms of uterine fibroids including “Reproductive problems, such as infertility, multiple miscarriages or early labor”

Once a black woman is able to get pregnant, they still face issues with prenatal care, labor and delivery, and postpartum care.  Our next blog will focus on prenatal care.  If you missed Shalon’s story earlier this week, read it here story on npr.org about Shalon Irving

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