African-American women are four times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes as white women, in part due to racial inequalities, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
That is the focus of senior psychology major Emily France’s Summer Undergraduate Research Experience. France, along with her mentor and faculty advisor, is looking at the levels and effects of racism, anxiety and trauma on pregnant and postpartum African-American women.
France was inspired to research this topic because of the diversity and trauma she saw growing up in Toledo, Ohio.
“We are seeing if trauma is a predictor of negative thinking and if people who experience trauma are more likely to have negative thoughts than someone who has never experienced trauma,” France said.
Black infants in America are more than twice as likely to die than white infants
A black woman with an advanced degree is still more likely to lose her baby than a white woman with less than an eight-grade education
The United States is one of 13 countries where the rate of maternal mortality is now worse than it was 25 years ago
There are 50,000 preventable pregnancy related near-deaths per year which rose 200% between 1993 and 2014, according to the CDC
The CDC reported about 700 to 900 maternal deaths occur each year
The SURE program gives undergraduate students an opportunity to work hands-on with a faculty advisor on a research topic of their choice, and to receive a $2,800 stipend for eight-weeks of research.
Keaton Somerville, a graduate student in clinical psychology and France’s lab mentor, described their research as examining traumatic experiences and frequency of negative self-talk in a sample of “low income expectant and postpartum black women”.
“[This research] gives voices to disadvantaged individuals to tell their stories … beyond their community,” Somerville said.
Questions such as ‘What does stress mean to you?’ are asked during sessions with a sample of women to determine daily life stressors and activities they may want to have implemented for future sessions. One example France gave was the implementation of yoga, to see if it might work as stress therapy.
As France enters her senior year, she plans to continue to research this topic for her honors thesis so that she may get more in-depth results.
“I already know I want to do work with trauma, and this summer is giving me the experience to learn more and ask questions I could have never asked,” France said.
Isabel Illig covers research and hiring. Contact her at email@example.com.