The overwhelming majority of babies in the U.S. are born healthy, and their growth brings joy and comfort to their parents.
But across the country, there is a whopping disparity in birth outcomes based on race. Black women fare worse than white women in almost every aspect of reproductive health.
"Any state you look at, you see the same disparities, and race is the strongest predictor of disparities," says Dr. Deborah Ehrenthal, of Christiana Care Health System in Delaware. "So we see higher rates of infant mortality, higher rates of preterm delivery." Black women are about 60 percent more likely than white women to deliver babies early, and black infants are about 230 percent more likely than white infants to die before their first birthdays.
In the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Christiana Hospital, a corridor is filled with the hum of incubators, which serve as a lifeline for fragile newborns.
Along with the large staff — including more than 100 nurses — you can't help but notice the parents in the NICU, hovering over incubators, rocking quietly in chairs.
Tiera Carter was visiting the NICU for the first time since giving birth to her 1-day-old son. His name is David, and he weighs less than 2 pounds.
"His chances are pretty good of him gaining weight and getting better, right?" she asks Dr. David Paul, a neonatologist.
"It's going to take him a while," he says. "It's going to be two to three weeks until we see him gain weight."
Fragile lives. Fingers crossed.