NYMC Faculty Publications

Communicating with African-American Women Who Have Had a Preterm Birth About Risks for Future Preterm Births

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Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities

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Obstetrics and Gynecology


PURPOSE: African-American women are at higher risk of preterm birth (PTB) compared with other racial/ethnic groups in the USA. The primary objective was to evaluate the level of understanding among a group of African-American women concerning risks of PTB in future pregnancies. Secondary objectives were to evaluate how some women obtain information about PTB and to identify ways to raise their awareness.

METHODS: Six focus groups were conducted in three locations in the USA during 2016 with women (N = 60) who had experienced ≥ 1 PTB (< 37 weeks of gestation) during the last 5 years. The population was geographically, economically, and educationally diverse.

RESULTS: We observed a tendency to normalize PTB. Knowledge about potential complications for the infant was lacking and birth weight was prioritized over gestational age as an indicator of PTB. Participants were largely unaware of factors associated with increased PTB risk, such as a previous PTB and race/ethnicity. The most trusted information source was the obstetrical care provider, although participants reported relying on mobile apps, websites, and chat rooms. The optimal time to receive information about PTB risk in subsequent pregnancies was identified as the postpartum visit in the provider's office.

CONCLUSIONS: Awareness of the risks of recurrent PTB was limited in this diverse population. Educational programs on the late-stage development of neonates may strengthen knowledge on the relationship between gestational age and PTB and associated health/developmental implications. For educational efforts to be successful, a strong nonjudgmental, positive, solutions-oriented message focused on PTB risk factors is crucial.

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