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Black Women Face More Obstacles To Early Prenatal Care

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

One in five black women in Oklahoma faces barriers to starting prenatal care, such as transportation problems, inability to obtain a doctor's appointment when wanted and not being able to begin prenatal treatment when wanted, according to an Oklahoma State Department of Health report released on Tuesday, the Oklahoman reports.

The Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System polls hundreds of new mothers annually. The most recent report also found that black mothers in the state are less likely than white mothers to have taken a multivitamin before becoming pregnant and are more likely to have had an unplanned pregnancy.

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In addition, the poll found that the use of cigarettes during pregnancy increased among black women from 1996 to 2006, but the rate is less than among white women. Smoking is a risk factor for giving birth to a low-birthweight infant, according to the Oklahoman. Black women are twice as likely as white women to have a low-birthweight infant, and black infants are nearly four times as likely to die from complications related to low birthweight than their white counterparts, according to the state health department.

Jill Nobles-Botkin, women's health service director for the department, said it is unclear why black women have trouble receiving early prenatal care, but lack of health insurance or access to obstetricians or other medical providers could contribute to delays in care. Public health officials say early and routine prenatal care is needed in part to diagnose and treat conditions in the mother that can affect healthy births, such as diabetes and high blood pressure (Simpson, Oklahoman, 10/22).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.