Prematurity Risks: What Today’s Black Parent Needs To Know

Father touching pregnant belly

( — Every parent hopes to have a complication-free pregnancy and to give birth to a healthy baby after a full 40 weeks. Unfortunately, premature births – that is, any births before 37 completed weeks of gestation – are too common within the African-American community. While prematurity is a problem for American women of all ethnicities, African Americans have the highest chance of delivering a baby prematurely. About 100,000 Black babies are born too early each year, representing nearly 20% of all preterm births in the U.S.

Why Are African-American Babies More Likely to be Premature?

Unfortunately, science has yet to explain all of the reasons for preterm labor, or why prematurity is more prevalent among African Americans. Even if a woman takes every possible precaution, she can still have a premature baby. There are, however, some known risk factors for premature birth, some of which are common among African-American women.

High blood pressure and diabetes – both risk factors for prematurity – are significant health problems among African-American women. These are often brought on by being overweight and having high cholesterol levels. In addition, studies show that smoking during pregnancy often leads to premature labor. Approximately 25% of Black women in the U.S. do not receive early prenatal care within the first trimester of pregnancy. This may contribute to increased prematurity rates among African-American women.