Comparison of perceived stress, allostatic load and racial discrimination in different cultural groups of pregnant black women



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Over 26 billion healthcare dollars are spent annually in the United States on the management of pre-term labor and the care of infants born prematurely. Studies have found that elevated levels of stress and anxiety during pregnancy significantly increase women’s risks for poor perinatal outcomes. Previous research studies also suggest differences in stress response may exist between black women born in the U.S. and foreign-born. The purpose of this study was to compare racial discrimination and different measurements of stress, including perceived stress and allostatic load score, in two different cultural groups of African American women. \r\n The specific aims of the research project were to: 1) determine if differences exist between African American women born in the United States and those who are foreign-born on perceived stress, measures of allostatic load and racial discrimination; 2) examine the relationships between racial discrimination, perceived stress, age, income, number of hours worked weekly, gestational age, total allostatic load score and measures of allostatic load in a sample of pregnant African American women; 3) determine the best model from the study variable set that predict each of the study variables. \r\nThe findings suggest the only variable that was statistically different between the two groups of African American women was the mean BMI (U.S.-born mean BMI 31.99 vs foreign-born mean BMI 25.58; p<0.02). Also, clinically significant differences were noted, such as a difference in ages (U.S.-born mean age 23.81 vs foreign-born mean age 30.25), income (U.S.-born mean income $2,385 vs foreign-born mean income $3,108) and measurements of stress (U.S.-born mean PSS score 18.11 vs foreign-born mean PSS score 16.20) and racial discrimination (U.S.-born mean RDS scores 24.01 vs foreign-born mean RDS score 17.25). When examining the entire sample there was a positive correlation between income and perceived stress (r = -0.43; p < 0.019) and between perceived stress scores and racial discrimination scores (r = 0.34; p < 0.063) . Regression models revealed income and racial discrimination predicted perceived stress scale scores (p < 0.023).\r\n The findings provided supporting evidence in the identification of perceived stress and racial discrimination in pregnancy. Additional support was provided for the differences that exist between different groups of women within the same ethnic group. Future research is needed to understand how socio-demographic and psychological variables place a mother and her baby at risk.\r\n