New mothers who are Black are significantly more likely to be tested for drugs than white mothers, even though white mothers are more likely to test positive, a new study conducted in Pennsylvania found.
Black women are more likely to be reported to child welfare services after giving birth. In qualitative studies, they have described health care workers who have assumed they are single or have multiple children or low incomes, whether or not those things are true.
“Regardless of socioeconomic status, when a Black mother or birthing person presents to a health care system, they are starting out being up against racial stereotypes,” said Jaime Slaughter-Acey, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota who studies racism in health care.
In pain, but afraid to speak up
Lia Gardley, 32, had hoped to deliver her son, Jaxson, without an epidural. A construction manager, she thought that if she could make it past seven centimeters dilation, the point at which she had learned the pain peaks, she could make it all the way. Her repeated requests to the nurse to check how far she was dilated, though, were denied.
“She kept saying, ‘No, if you’re having so much trouble, you should just get the epidural,’” Ms. Gardley said.
Exhausted, and unsure how much labor she had left, she agreed to the epidural. Shortly after, a nurse checked her dilation, only to find she’d already made it past seven centimeters.
“It still bothers me when I think about it, because I had such intention and determination, and all I had needed them to do was give me all the information so I could make my informed decision,” Ms. Gardley said.