African Americans, birth weight, discrimination, prenatal care



  1. Dailey, Dawn E.


Background: Perinatal racial disparities remain an elusive problem in the United States. African American women experience the highest rate of low-birth-weight deliveries. Understanding the factors contributing to infant birth weight is crucial to unraveling existing perinatal racial disparities.


Objective: The aim of this study was to broaden knowledge of predictors of infant birth weight in African American people by examining stress and resource factors not explored routinely in perinatal research along with other known correlates of birth weight.


Methods: A total of 119 pregnant African American women participated in this prospective study. Social stressors included discrimination and trauma exposure. Personal resources included spirituality and social support. Data on socioeconomic status, health behaviors, and medical conditions were collected.


Results: On average, the infants weighed 3,194 +/- 660 g at birth. Overall, 14% were born with birth weights less than 2,500 g. Tobacco use, number of prenatal visits, and discrimination due to age and physical disability were significant predictors of infant birth weight (R2 = .25; p >= .001). Factors such as spirituality and social support were not associated with birth weight. Other variables traditionally associated with birth weight did not contribute to the model in this sample.


Conclusion: These findings provide further evidence that tobacco use, number of prenatal visits, and discrimination adversely affects birth outcomes. By continuing to explore the social and personal experiences of African American women, important insights can be gained on factors that contribute to the pervasive racial disparities in perinatal health and contribute to interventions to improve the quality of healthcare for all women.