Maternal health researcher to study cesarean disparities

Assistant Professor Jeremy Neal, PhD, FACNM, has been awarded an R21 exploratory/development grant of more than $250,000 from the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities to assess the differences in labor progress and care among Black and white women with low-risk pregnancies. The study findings will inform how health care providers can improve standards of care to decrease the disparity in cesarean births.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 31.7 percent of all deliveries in the U.S. are by cesarean birth. The disparity in primary cesarean birth rates between Black and white women with low-risk pregnancies is significant: In 2019, 30 percent of low-risk Black women experienced a cesarean birth compared with 24.7 percent of white women.

“The biggest contributor to cesarean births for first-time mothers is if their care provider deems their labor progression too slow,” said Neal, also co-director of the Vanderbilt School of Nursing postdoctoral program. “The standards for labor progression are out of sync with the physiological reality. By holding women to too fast of an expectation, we are putting them at greater risk for cesareans, unfortunately and unnecessarily.”