Hello, Mamas! Today, let’s shed some light on an issue of increasing importance – the impact of the environment on African American pregnancies, especially regarding preterm birth (PTB).
PTB, defined as a delivery before the 37th week of pregnancy, can lead to significant health issues for newborns, from respiratory to neurological problems[^1^]. PTB has a broad array of risk factors, both modifiable and non-modifiable, including genetics, overall health, and lifestyle[^2^].
Here’s where it gets intriguing: research increasingly points to environmental pollutants as a risk factor for PTB[^3^]. You might wonder, “Why are we focusing on African American pregnancies?” It all comes down to socio-economic disparities in environmental exposure.
Communities of color, particularly low-income neighborhoods, are frequently nestled near industrial areas or bustling roads. This unfortunate geographical disadvantage translates into increased exposure to various pollutants, such as pesticides, particulate matter, and toxic metals[^3^].
Recent studies reveal a shocking truth: the air in these non-white, low-income communities contains a higher concentration of hazardous particles, including potentially harmful elements like vanadium, nitrates, and zinc[^4^].
This disproportionate environmental burden places African American pregnancies at a unique risk. Numerous studies connect higher exposure levels to an increased incidence of PTB[^5^].
So, what can we do? Well, armed with this knowledge[^1^,^2^,^3^,^4^,^5^], we can work towards advocating for cleaner, safer environments for all mothers-to-be, with a particular focus on the African American community. This could mean lobbying for better public transportation in these areas, stricter regulations on industries, and equitable access to quality prenatal care.
By understanding the link between environmental exposure and PTB, we can aim for effective strategies to prevent PTB and work towards healthier pregnancies for all, irrespective of race or socio-economic status.
So let’s join hands, draw from the research, and press for the changes needed to protect our communities, our mothers, and our future generations. Because every child deserves a healthy start, and every mother deserves a safe environment.
[^1^] Goldenberg, R. L., Culhane, J. F., Iams, J. D., & Romero, R. (2008). Epidemiology and causes of preterm birth. The Lancet, 371(9606), 75-84.
[^2^] Blencowe, H., Cousens, S., Chou, D., Oestergaard, M., Say, L., Moller, A. B., … & Lawn, J. (2013). Born too soon: the global epidemiology of 15 million preterm births. Reproductive health, 10(1), S2.
[^3^] Ferguson, K. K., O’Neill, M. S., & Meeker, J. D. (2013). Environmental contaminant exposures and preterm birth: a comprehensive review. Journal of toxicology and environmental health. Part B, Critical reviews, 16(2), 69–113.
[^4^] Collins, M. B., Munoz, I., & Jaja, J. (2016). Linking ‘toxic outliers’ to environmental justice communities. Environmental research letters, 11(1), 015004.
[^5^] Stieb, D. M., Chen, L., Eshoul, M., & Judek, S. (2012). Ambient air pollution, birth weight and preterm birth: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Environmental
With Love, Lakischa Smith
Meet Lakischa Smith, a proud mother and a dedicated public health advocate. With a Bachelor’s from Dillard University and a Master’s in Public Health from Florida International University, she’s committed to sharing honest narratives about black motherhood. Lakischa believes in fostering sisterhood to combat the pervasive forces of white supremacy, and empowering African American women to be agents of change for future generations. She asserts that recognizing and addressing our community’s struggles is crucial, for healing is the key to moving forward. Armed with the power of education and a deep belief in collective action, Lakischa is determined to ensure that the issues impacting African American maternal health aren’t just seen—they’re addressed and resolved.