How Racial Prejudice in Newborn Care Infiltrates

Is this phenomena a genuine medical concern or is it a type of acceptable bias that guarantees white children and parents receive better care?

I gave birth to my twins 24 weeks before Valentine’s Day in 2013. I was more worried about the rumbling automobile than I was about the medical staff treating my sons and I differently because we are Black. I chose this hospital because of the repute of its neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). But, two recent studies suggest that I should have exercised caution.

The treatment a newborn receives in the NICU may vary depending on their race, according to research published in the September edition of Pediatrics. Researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine examined more than 18,600 hospital records for babies delivered in California who had a very low birth weight (3.3 pounds or less). intended to evaluate service and performance disparity, researchers graded the records based on whether the patient received treatment in accordance with accepted medical standards and the results. According to the results, infants of Latino descent and people whose ethnicity was designated as “other” had the worst care. White patients had better care in hospitals with better patient outcomes, whereas Black patients received better care in NICUs of lower calibre.

Patients of colour generally receive different treatment than white patients from the medical profession. Only a few examples of how racial biases have manifested themselves in the medical field include the belief that Black people experience less physical pain, experiments on slaves in the medical field, and immigrants being denied medical attention or deported while still in hospital beds.

Babies are then exposed to the same racial prejudices. The study’s lead author, Dr. Jochen Profit, an associate professor of paediatrics, said, “Our study reveals that the NICU is really no different from other settings where health care is delivered disparately, which has a long history. We all have unconscious social biases, which can enter the NICU.

Some of these prejudices are supported by facts. The March of Dimes claims that African women have a higher risk of preterm birth. Almost 17 percent of Black babies born each year in the United States are born prematurely. But, statistically speaking, Black female infants have a greater survival rate from preterm than White male infants. For this reason, female preemies of any race are likely to fare better outside the womb than their male ethnic counterparts. Male infants typically have more serious respiratory conditions. Nonetheless, compared to other premature newborn groups, Black female babies fare better.

Despite the fact that data generally support the notion that prematurely delivered Black kids will fare better than newborns of White descent, not a warranty against poor health outcomes. Nonetheless, these presumptions are directly correlated with how aggressively premature babies of colour receive treatment. The Stanford study found that Black infants were less likely than White, Latino, or Asian infants to receive steroid therapy for lungs development, to have timely exams for retinopathy of prematurity, a condition that results in abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eyes, to receive human breast milk on a regular basis, and to experience infections from careless hospital handling.

These results have complex underlying causes: The data were not compiled taking into account geographical and socioeconomic demographics, individual hospital policies, or pervasive institution-wide issues.

Additionally, the study excludes anecdotal responses to treatment, such as the widely accepted unofficial diagnosis of “wimpy white boy syndrome” (WWBS) that is applied in many hospitals across the country. This condition is described as “a neonatal white boy with adjusted gestational age of 35-40 weeks who is failing to achieve the developmental landmarks of weaning to an open crib and/or not taking all of his oral feeds as expected” in Dr. David G. Oelberg’s editorial for Neonatal Intensive Care in Norfolk, Virginia. NICU nurses will typically “diagnose” a baby with

It’s a simple approach to explain why white newborns don’t do as well, according to Georgia Lee, a former NICU licenced master social worker. She characterised the phrase as a catch-all but added that doctors shouldn’t substitute true diagnostic tests with this anecdotal phenomenon, which is not recognised as a legitimate medical illness. “I don’t believe our doctors would dismiss it in that way and then forego a test,” the patient said.

But in reality, that’s what happened to Springfield, Virginia resident Melody Schreiber’s kid.

When Schreiber’s baby was born at 29 weeks, WWBS was informally diagnosed. He started off rather well, in fact. His APGAR rating, which measures a baby’s chance of survival after birth, was incredible. He looked terrific. He was described as having mildly premature lungs but otherwise being in good health. A week into her son’s stay, physicians detected a hole in his heart, but underlined that they should be more concerned about his prematurity.

Around 34 weeks, her son’s health began to deteriorate: He was unable to nurse, was transferred to a more critical area of the NICU, and was given oxygen. No explanations for this were given to Schreiber.

As she stated her worries, the doctors grew defensive. “ When they began yelling, “White men,”

Why, in Schreiber’s opinion, did the hospital take so long to realise this?

“Unquestionably, I believe it was because he was white.” The way the hospital personnel treated her kid with such favouritism gave Schreiber cause for concern. They do not want him to improve. She said to her husband, “They want to keep him there forever. “I really started to get the impression that they weren’t being honest.”

The debate is on whether WWBS is an actual medical issue or a form of justifiable prejudice that assures white newborns receive different treatment. More attention is given to babies with WWBS who aren’t doing well on health measures, but this doesn’t guarantee that their condition will change. It is believed that black preemies will fare better in the NICU as a result of other racist data and hence receive less treatment, potentially having long-term effects.

Yet, there are various ways to define the word “care.” A premature baby’s survival is ensured by performing diagnostic tests, giving medication, and carrying out other operations, according to the medical definition. Contrast that with the compassionate care provided during feedings, diaper changes, reading to babies in incubators, or holding or calming them when they are crying. Due to racial prejudice, Schreiber’s son may not have received the best medical care, but those same prejudices made sure he did receive enough caring care.

A late 2016 research on parental satisfaction conducted at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia indicated concerns over the loving, more compassionate standard provided to NICU patients, in contrast to the Stanford study, which reflects on the definition tied to standard medical treatment. In accordance with that study,

Black pregnant women are frequently racially profiled as soon as they enter the hospital. When her daughter went into preterm labour at 22 weeks, Lorna Harris of Bryans Road, Maryland, said the hospital in Washington, D.C., treated her horribly. Staff questioned her competency and capacity to cover her medical expenses, questioning if she was aware of the cost of her choosing to keep the child. Harris had to take charge. The hospital started treating her kid more appropriately once it was determined that she has pride, dignity, a family, and a history.

Bonita Huggins, a preemie mother from Abington, Pennsylvania, discovered that the medical staff started treating her twins differently when she and her husband acted badly.

outside of what Black parents would typically expect.

“We were there every single day. We were focused. Pumping was being done by me. We were taking care of the kangaroos. an an an an aforementioned an aforementioned aforementioned an an a I am aware it was a privilege we enjoyed, and there were many parents, particularly Black parents, whose infants were left alone and unattended.

Schreiber also observed that the personnel made erroneous assumptions about absent parents. ‘Spanish ladies have so many infants they don’t care if one of them is in the hospital,’ they said when discussing absent mothers.

“I felt like I was taken more seriously because I was viewed as white,” said Abigail Noonan, a mixed mother of twins who were born at 24 weeks in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. And I sensed that he paid more attention to me because he took me more seriously. He was treated better because the physicians would actually listen to me and come over and chat to me. Many of the nurses became my friends. I’m not sure if it’s a Black or White issue, but they seemed to care more about me than the other mothers there.

The parents I spoke with all agreed that their family’s treatment was more a reflection of their socioeconomic situation and their aptitude

than their race to take time off of work and attend the NICU. However, because economic class and race typically go hand in hand, babies of colour in the NICU are frequently neglected.

Huggins stated, “I got to know some of the other Black parents I ran into in the NICU. One couple had no vehicle and didn’t reside particularly close by. The parents had to resume their employment. There was always an explanation. You regularly observed the vast majority of white parents there. We developed into that pair where people say, “They’re different.”

Noonan remarked, “I think of this dad who would come in every night after working a barber shift. “His son had obviously been there for a very long time and was quite ill. Every night, he would go there, bring his son outside, and hold him. His son had nothing; all he had were medical supplies; there were no toys or comforters. Nobody ever visited or spoke with him.

He was clearly adoring. He was clearly worn out despite his best efforts in this awful situation. I never seen any nurses or doctors with the young Black man there. And I believed there were several cases where parents who weren’t as fortunate as I was and couldn’t be present 24/7

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