B.C. researcher raises concerns about racism in pregnancy and birth care

A team that includes B.C. researchers has found that Black, Indigenous and people of colour are more likely to feel pressured into procedures by health providers during pregnancy and birth care.

Saraswathi Vedam, lead investigator at University of British Columbia’s Birth Place Lab, says research underway in Canada is raising similar concerns about racial inequities in reproductive health.

Vedam co-authored a study published today in the journal Birth suggesting that Black people in the U.S. are twice as likely as white people to be coerced into proceduresduring birth and newborn care.

Researchers at UBC and University of California San Francisco analyzed data from a study of 2,700 people in the U.S. who were surveyed about their pregnancy and birth experiences between 2010 and 2016.

Their findings suggest that white and Black participants declined careat similar rates, but Black respondents were more likely to report undergoing procedures that they had refused.

The researchers say nearly a third of all respondents reported feeling pressured into procedures such as episiotomy, which involves making an incision to widen the opening of the vagina, using drugs to speed up labour, receiving an epidural, and fetal monitoring.

Vedam says early findings from a parallel Canadian survey of 6,000 people echo some of these concerns around consent and discrimination, calling for more education and accountability in the health-care community.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 23, 2022.


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