There are a multitude of factors that affect fetal and infant health including access to medical care, socioeconomic status, and environmental factors, but a new study from the University of California, Los Angeles Fielding School of Public Health has narrowed down the relationship between reproductive rights and infant health. They found that less restrictive reproductive rights correlate with better infant health outcomes, especially among Black mothers.
The research, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, analyzed the birth weights of 3,945,875 infants across all 50 states and cross referenced them with states that were categorized as most, moderate, and least restrictive in terms of reproductive rights. They found that 7% more babies are born at healthy birth weights in American states with less restrictive reproductive policies. This number increases to 8% for Black mothers.
Birth weight is a strong indicator of infant health and is linked to a number of longer term health outcomes, such as immunity, growth rate, and neurological development. This, coupled with the fact that nearly all babies in the US have their weight recorded at birth, makes it an effective factor for looking at differences in infant health across regions.
Although the correlation between reproductive rights and infant health was noticeable across all demographics, it isn’t surprising that the most extreme disparities occurred among Black mothers. Systemic racism exacerbates health issues in marginalized communities and it has been long understood that mothers of color face higher rates of maternal and infant mortality.
Although there is much work to be done in the field of maternal and infant health, what this research does show us is the positive outcomes of creating less restrictive reproductive policies which prioritize holistic health, maternal autonomy, and community wellbeing. Research like this is valuable for identifying the most beneficial health solutions so we can focus on implementing them.