Racial Discrimination a Factor in Low Birth Weight and Preterm Birth

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A new study has revealed that African-American infants are more likely to be born with low birth weights, die before their first birthday and be preterm. Low birth weight infants, those who are born weighing less than 5lbs. 8 oz., are at a high risk of illness, death and lasting health problems.

The study, which was put on by the Solano Black Infant Health Program and other researchers, discovered that African-American Women are twice as likely to have preterm/low birth weights than whites and also cited that one in every six African-American women will have a premature birth.

The Solano Black Infant Health Program study additionally attributed other reports that the reasons why these occurrences happen are not related to education, wealth or a genetic disposition among people of African descent, but are strictly applied to black infants in the United States. African-American who had high education and incomes, and healthy lifestyles still gave birth prematurely.

The causes for concern among this recent discovery are the long-term health effects and costs of preterm birth. Preterm birth, which is defined as birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy, has lifelong consequences. The earlier a baby is born, the more severe its health problems will be, because certain growth and development, which occurs in the final weeks of pregnancy, has not taken place. Preterm related problems are the leading cause for infant deaths.

Preterm birth also has a cost related issue as preterm infants have to stay in the hospital in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to gain weight and overcome obstacles such as difficulty feeding and breathing.

Although the study from Solano Black Infant Health Program identified that low birth weights and preterm birth occur to black infants, and the reason for these occurrences are not related to health, wealth or genetic disposition, it did not answer the question as to why low birth rates and preterm births occur.

However, several other studies have answered that. A study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information linked low birth weights/preterm births in African-American Women to chronic stress due to racial discrimination that African American women face all their lives. The lifelong accumulated experiences of racial discrimination by African American women constitute an independent risk factor for preterm delivery.

Concludingly, chronic stress due to racial discrimination is a problem that will not end soon, so the best thing African-American women can do to avoid low weight and preterm births are arranging preconception check ups to make sure one is in the best health possible, seek early prenatal care, manage medical problems and medication and develop healthy habits which include prenatal vitamins and monitored exercise.

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