Pregnant Patients of Color Report Mistreatment by Medical Providers
Friday, September 1, 2023
A new study finds that people of color often experience different treatment during and after their pregnancy than do their white counterparts in encounters with a health-care provider.
Almost one-third of Black or Hispanic patients reported incidents such as receiving no response to requests for help, being shouted at or scolded, or not having their physical privacy protected. Some reported being threatened with withholding treatment or made to accept unwanted treatment.
Unfortunately, said Lauren Lancaster, maternal child health manager at the Indiana Minority Health Coalition, these reports are nothing new.
"It has been happening for years - for generations, honestly," she said. "I would say that because of the increased awareness that is going on, there is more of a presence of reporting these issues and getting them out into the limelight."
Lancaster said the coalition has a "three-doula" program in northern Indiana. The doulas work primarily with minority patients, through birth as well as postpartum, as a source of emotional and educational support. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested that health-care systems make it a priority to support care that's respectful and considerate of the patient's values, needs and desires.
Mistreatment is part of a pattern of inequality in medical care that can have a troubling outcome on pregnancies. In the most recent report for Indiana, in 2020, the maternal mortality ratio for Black women was 208 per 100,000 live births, compared with 108 for white women and 71 for Latina women.
Lancaster noted that there is something a patient can do if she believes she isn't receiving proper assistance and guidance during pregnancy.
"At the end of the day, you are the patient," she said. "So, if you feel that you are not being heard, or you're being mistreated, please report that. You have the ability or capability. Please, find a provider that best suits you - that listens to you - so you can get the help that you need."
The IU Public Policy Institute report included data from Indiana's Maternal Mortality Review Committee, which found that discrimination contributes to 8% of pregnancy-related deaths in the state.
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