Skip to main content
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Poverty-related issues in the news, from the Institute for Research on Poverty

Premature Birth and Infant Mortality

  • Is stress to blame for preterm births?, By Mark Johnson and Tia Ghose, April 16, 2011, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “A tight, persistent pain in the lower abdomen chased Jasmine Zapata from class that morning, forcing her upstairs to rest on a couch at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison. It was Sept. 20, and Zapata was in her 25th week of pregnancy, just past the midpoint. She neither smoked nor drank. She knew the importance of proper prenatal care – of course she did – and had followed the doctor’s orders to the letter. Zapata, after all, was in her second year of medical school. The 23-year-old Milwaukee native had carried her first pregnancy to term and had a beautiful son to show for it: MJ, now 18 months old. At her last doctor visit the week before, all had been fine. But on this morning when Zapata rose from the couch and went into the bathroom, she saw she was bleeding. By the time the ambulance got to the hospital, she was completely dilated and in fear for her baby daughter. ‘When they were doing an ultrasound, I was mentally preparing myself,’ Zapata said. ‘What if they tell me she’s dead?’ Educated, married, with no chronic illnesses or family history of prematurity, Zapata was not, in most respects, a high risk for premature delivery, the No. 1 cause of infant mortality in Milwaukee. Only one factor suggested risk: Zapata is African-American…”
  • Understanding the risks, Editorial, April 16, 2011, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “African-American babies in Milwaukee are dying before their first birthday at more than twice the rate of white infants. This tragic trend line has widened despite years of effort. Poverty, unhealthy environments, lack of prenatal care, smoking or drinking alcohol and chronic diseases such as diabetes all play a role. But researchers now believe that something else is behind these cruel numbers: the accumulated stress of a life lived as a racial minority. This insight argues for approaches that help black women understand the multiple risks they face and that give them tools to cope with these risks. Milwaukee’s black infant mortality rate was 15.7 deaths per 1,000 live births between 2005 and 2008, one of the worst rates in the country and double the rate for white babies…”