“Police shootings, now that seems to be the main issue” – Black pregnant women’s anticipation of police brutality towards their children

Document Type




A disproportionate number of people who are killed by police each year are Black. While much attention rightly remains on victims of police brutality, there is a sparse literature on police brutality and perinatal health outcomes. We aimed to explore how Black pregnant women perceive police brutality affects them during pregnancy and might affect their children.


This qualitative study involved semi-structured interviews among 24 Black pregnant women in New Haven, Connecticut (January 2017 to August 2018). Interview questions explored neighborhood factors, safety, stressors during pregnancy, and anticipated stressors while parenting. Grounded theory informed the analysis.


Participants, regardless of socioeconomic status, shared experiences with police and beliefs about anticipated police brutality, as summarized in the following themes: (1) experiences that lead to police distrust – “If this is the way that mommy’s treated [by police]”; (2) anticipating police brutality – “I’m always expecting that phone call”; (3) stress and fear during pregnancy – “It’s a boy, [I feel] absolutely petrified”; and (4) ‘the talk’ about avoiding police brutality – “How do you get prepared?” Even participants who reported positive experiences with police anticipated brutality towards their children.


Interactions between Black people and police on a personal, familial, community, and societal level influenced how Black pregnant women understand the potential for police brutality towards their children. Anticipated police brutality is a source of stress during pregnancy, which may adversely influence maternal and infant health outcomes. Police brutality must be addressed in all communities to prevent harming the health of birthing people and their children.

Publication Status


Category Tags

Family and Early Childhood; Public Safety and Crime; Racial Justice and Racism; Mental Health and Wellness