Racial Discrimination and the Black-White Gap in Adverse Birth Outcomes: A Review


  • Carmen Giurgescu PhD, WHNP,

  • Barbara L. McFarlin CNM, PhD, RDMS,

  • Jeneen Lomax CNM, APN,

  • Cindy Craddock RNC-OB, WHNP,

  • Amy Albrecht CNM, APN

Barbara L. McFarlin, CNM, PhD, RDMS, FACNM, University of Illinois College of Nursing, Room 858, 845 S Damen Ave M/C 802, Chicago, IL 60612. E-mail: bmcfar1@uic.edu


Introduction: The purpose of this integrative review was to evaluate what is known about the relationship between racial discrimination and adverse birth outcomes.

Methods: A search of the Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature, MEDLINE, and PsycINFO was conducted. The keywords used were: preterm birth, premature birth, preterm delivery, preterm labor, low birth weight, very low birth weight, racism, racial discrimination, and prejudice. Ten research studies were reviewed. All of the studies included African American women in their samples, were conducted in the United States, and were written in English. We did not limit the year of publication for the studies. Data were extracted based on the birth outcomes of preterm birth, low birth weight, or very low birth weight.

Results: A consistent positive relationship existed between perceptions of racial discrimination and preterm birth, low birth weight, and very low birth weight. No relationship was found between racial discrimination and gestational age at birth.

Discussion: Future research should explore the effects of racial discrimination as a chronic stressor contributing to the persistent gap in birth outcomes between racial groups.