New Jersey’s Black Babies at Higher Risk

The African-American infant mortality rate in New Jersey is more than twice that of whites.

Posted: 02/28/2011 01:36 PM EST

The death rate for Black babies in New Jersey during the first year of life is more than twice as much as it is for white babies, despite the state’s low infant mortality rate overall, according to numbers from New Jersey’s health department.

A medical mystery of sorts, the problem transcends a variety of factors.

“Race in America puts your pregnancy at risk,” Ilise Zimmerman, head of the Northern New Jersey Maternal-Child Health Consortium, told The Record. “It’s not about poverty. It’s not about teenage pregnancy. It’s not about use of drugs … If you self-identify as Black, there’s a greater chance your baby will be born before full-term and be too small.”

In general, Black women go into labor earlier than white women, which often places the health of the babies at risk.

Looking at the most recent numbers (2007), for every 1,000 babies born in the state, 11.2 Black babies died compared to 3.4 white babies. In 2006, 16 percent of Black women went into early labor, compared to 10 percent of white women. And twice as many Black babies —14 percent—were born weighing under 5½ pounds than white babies.

While early labor, poverty, and access to health care can be factors, some researchers point to the stress of being a Black person in the United States as a possible reason for the disparity, The Record reports. Stress does increase the likelihood of premature labor and can complicate delivery.

Experts suggest Black women become aware of the special risks and make efforts to make their pregnancies as comfortable as possible.


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