Hypertension in Pregnancy: The Disparate Treatment of Black Women

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Hypertension in Pregnancy: The Disparate Treatment of Black Women


One of the most alarming disparities in maternal healthcare is the treatment of hypertension among pregnant women, a condition that threatens both maternal and fetal health. When we dissect the racial undertones of this issue, the evidence is startling. Black pregnant women face higher risks of hypertensive disorders and often receive different—and sometimes inferior—care compared to their white counterparts. This article delves into the salient points of how and why this inequity occurs, in order to spur a deeper understanding and incite action.

The Prevalence of Hypertensive Disorders

First and foremost, let’s talk about prevalence. Hypertensive disorders such as preeclampsia occur more frequently in Black women. While medical science is still unraveling the full scope of causes—ranging from genetic predispositions to environmental factors—the fact remains that Black women are statistically more at risk. This should signal the healthcare system to allocate more resources and attention to this demographic, but alas, the opposite often occurs.

Diagnosis and Monitoring

A pivotal point in managing hypertensive disorders during pregnancy is diagnosis and monitoring. In an ideal world, regular prenatal checks would catch elevations in blood pressure early. However, Black women often have fewer prenatal visits due to a variety of systemic barriers like lack of access to quality healthcare and financial constraints. Even when they do get care, their symptoms are sometimes dismissed or downplayed, a manifestation of implicit bias within medical practice.

Treatment Protocols and Medication

When it comes to medication and treatment protocols, the waters get even murkier. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has clear guidelines on how to manage hypertensive disorders in pregnancy, but adherence to these guidelines is inconsistent when comparing the care given to Black and white women. Black women are often undertreated, leading to avoidable complications like preterm births, maternal organ damage, and in the worst cases, maternal and fetal death.

Pain Management and Hospitalization

Pain management in hypertensive disorders is also crucial. Here again, racial disparities are glaring. Black women’s complaints of pain are frequently met with skepticism, thus affecting the speed and adequacy of the care they receive. Hospitalization rates and the quality of hospital care for hypertensive disorders also differ substantially between Black and white women, further compounding the problem.

Systemic Barriers

It’s important to underscore that many healthcare providers don’t consciously set out to offer disparate treatment. However, systemic racism, implicit bias, and social determinants of health create an environment where this disparate treatment is perpetuated. The underfunding of healthcare institutions that predominantly serve Black communities, for instance, results in fewer resources for the proper diagnosis and management of hypertensive disorders in pregnancy.



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Sanga Turnbull

Sanga Turnbull is the founder and principal attorney at The Turnbull Law Firm, a Florida law firm helping personal injury victims in Winter Haven and Orlando recover compensation for harm done to them by the negligence of others. The comprehensive personal injury practice at The Turnbull Firm includes all manner of motor vehicle accidents, nursing home neglect and abuse, slip and fall, workplace and industrial accidents, medical malpractice, catastrophic injury, wrongful death, and more. Injury victims or their families are invited to call The Turnbull Firm for a no-cost, confidential consultation about any potential claims they may have.