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Pregnant Black Women More Likely than White Women to Be Tested for Drugs Although White Women More Likely to Test Positive

(GETTY)

A new study shows that hospitals are more likely to do drug tests on Black women who are giving birth than on White women. However, Black women were less likely to test positive for drugs than White women.

In the study “Association of Race with Urine Toxicology Testing Among Pregnant Patients During Labor and Delivery,” researchers looked at the medical records of more than 37,000 women who gave birth in Pennsylvania between March 2018 and June 2021.

The report comes after a lot of talk about differences and systemic racism in healthcare systems across the United States. These conversations were sparked by the uneven effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on people of color and by recent data showing that Black and Native American women have higher rates of death during childbirth than white women.

“Any given clinician may not be thinking about bias, but when you look at these kinds of data, you can see there is no other explanation,” Marian Jarlenski, an associate professor of health policy and Management at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health and the report’s author, told The New York Times.

The results are clear, said Dr. Alison Stuebe, a professor of obstetrics and medicine at the University of North Carolina. “This study is one example of how the way health care providers act makes Black women doubt the system.”

Researchers who worked on the study used a control group and looked at the chance of pee toxicity testing for each group, taking into account different socioeconomic and medical factors. They found that even though more “Black women had reported using drugs before, mostly cannabis, this difference did not fully explain the results: Even if they had never used drugs before, black patients were more likely to have urine tests at birth, according to a story in The Times.

“Among those who said they had used drugs in the past year, 76 percent of Black women and 68 percent of White women were tested,” the study said. But White women who had used drugs in the past were more likely to test positive, while only 58% of Black women who had used drugs in the past were positive.

“It’s not clear what made the Pennsylvania health system test more Black women for drugs,” the study said. “All patients who went to the labor and delivery room were asked questions from the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s quick verbal screening test to see if they used drugs.”

The policy said that urine toxicology tests should be done on people who had a “positive test result from the screening test, a history of drug use in the year before delivery, few prenatal visits, or a poor birth outcome without a clear medical explanation.”

The report went on to say, “In addition to figuring out the odds, the study said how many people were checked for drugs. About 21% of Black patients said they had used drugs or alcohol in the past, but 25% were given a pee test. Most of the Black women said that they used marijuana.

The report’s writers say that doctors should pay attention to how they test for drugs to avoid racial bias.

Here is the full story.

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