Study Finds Black Birthing People Prefer Black Obstetric Providers Due to Discrimination and Fear


New Study Finds Black Birthing People Prefer Black Obstetric Providers Due to Experiences of Discrimination and Fear of Dying During Pregnancy or Childbirth

National Harbor, Md. ― Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demonstrate that Black
women in the United States are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than are white
women. Health disparities among people of color are the result of broader social and economic inequities
rooted in racism and discrimination.

In a new study to be presented today at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s (SMFM) annual meeting,
The Pregnancy Meeting™, researchers will unveil findings that suggest that pregnant people who are Black
may prefer to have an obstetrician who is also Black.

The qualitative study explored Black birthing people’s lived experiences with obstetric care and their
perspectives on having an obstetric care provider who is also Black.

Researchers conducted 16 one-on-one interviews and five focus groups with individuals who self-identified as
Black or African American. The researchers who conducted the interviews and focus groups also identified as
Black women. The mean age of the study’s 32 participants was 34, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) were
married, and nearly three-quarters (72 percent) had a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Five common themes emerged during the interviews: 1) participants’ desire for a Black obstetric care provider,
2) their difficulty finding a Black obstetric care provider, 3) their experiences of being stereotyped while
receiving obstetric care, 4) their feelings about not being heard by obstetric providers and healthcare staff, and 5) their fear of dying while pregnant or during childbirth.

A sampling of participant responses:

  • “I was actually a little hesitant to see the providers who were white…because of the…discrimination
    that I have experienced throughout my lifetime and the discrimination that I see my friends and my
    family experience….”
  • “I did not feel heard. I didn’t feel like they were taking me seriously.”
  • “This one nurse…kept asking me, ‘Do I need a social worker?’ ‘Do I need WIC [a federal government
    that provides assistance to low-income pregnant women, infants, and children]?’ And I’m like, what,
    what in my profile is making you ask these questions, are these normal questions? Or are you asking
    me this because I’m Black?”

“There has been a lot of research describing racial disparities in obstetric outcomes,” says the study’s lead
author Nicole Teal, MD, MPH, who is currently a maternal-fetal medicine subspecialist at UC San Diego Health
and assistant professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at University of California San
Diego School of Medicine, though her research was conducted when she was a maternal-fetal medicine fellow
at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“What is novel about our study is there is very limited rigorous research looking at the issue from the patient
perspective and what increased diversity in obstetric providers might mean for health outcomes for Black
birthing people,” said Teal. “Our findings suggest increasing racial diversity among providers may be one
strategy to address inequities in obstetric care. Other strategies recommended by our study participants
included increasing continuity with prenatal care providers, eradicating stereotypes of Black mothers, and
increasing respectful care in general.”

The abstract was published in the January 2024 supplement of the American Journal of Obstetrics and

Additional news releases about select SMFM research being presented are posted on AAAS’s EurekAlert
(subscription needed) approximately one week in advance of embargo lifting. Embargoes lift on the date and
start time of the abstract presentation.


About the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine
The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM), founded in 1977, is the medical professional society for
maternal-fetal medicine subspecialists, who are obstetricians with additional training in high-risk pregnancies.
SMFM represents more than 6,000 members who care for high-risk pregnant people and provides education,
promotes research, and engages in advocacy to advance optimal and equitable perinatal outcomes for all
people who desire and experience pregnancy. For more information, visit and connect with the
organization on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. For the latest 2024 Annual Meeting news and updates,
follow the hashtag #SMFM24

Media Contacts:
Karen Addis, APR
+1 (301) 787-2394