The association between maternal experiences of interpersonal discrimination and adverse birth outcomes: A systematic review of the evidence

Anders Larrabee Sonderlund*, Antoinette Schoenthaler, Trine Thilsing

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

In the present systematic review, we argue that maternal experiences of interpersonal discrimination at least partially account for the disproportionate rates of adverse birth outcomes in minority populations. Since the 1990s, research in this area has slowly, but steadily increased, shedding more light on the insidious nature of interpersonal discrimination and its toxic health effects. With the aim of bringing this topic to the fore in academic as well as clinical settings, this paper provides a state-of-the-art review of the empirical knowledge on the relationship between maternal experiences of discrimination and birth outcomes. Of 5901 articles retained in the literature search, 28 met the predefined inclusion criteria. Accounting for a range of health and behavioral factors, the vast majority of these studies support the notion that maternal experiences of interpersonal discrimination predict a range of adverse birth outcomes, including preterm birth, low birth weight, and various physiological markers of stress (allostatic load) in both mother and child pre-and postpartum. Several moderators and mediators of this relationship were also identified. These related primarily to the type (first-hand and vicarious), timing (childhood, adolescence, and adulthood), frequency, and pervasiveness of discrimination experienced, as well as to maternal mental health and coping. More research into these factors, however, is required to definitively determine their signifi-cance. We discuss these findings as they relate to the general health repercussions of interpersonal discrimination, as well as in terms of applied prenatal care and interventions. Ultimately, we argue that assessing maternal experiences of interpersonal discrimination in prenatal care may represent a considerable asset for mitigating existing majority-minority disparities in adverse birth outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1465
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume18
Issue number4
ISSN1661-7827
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4. Feb 2021

Keywords

  • Birth outcomes
  • Discrimination
  • Women’s health

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