Implicit Bias

Reflections on racism and oppression in midwifery

Implicit bias when unacknowledged by health care providers has the ability to manifest as contempt for the otherness they will necessarily encounter in many of their patients (Bridges, 2014).  In Reproducing Race: An Ethnography of Pregnancy as a Site of Racialization, Khiara Bridges (2014) wrote:   

When we understand that culture can be used to signify fundamental, insurmountable, difference (i.e., radical Otherness), then the cultural stereotypes and assumptions about the way people from/within certain cultures ‘just are’ may produce the same effects produced by racial discrimination. (p. 135)

Unexamined implicit bias can morph the racial stereotypes in which we have all been immersed our entire lives into cultural stereotypes which are more acceptable to utter at present.  Chapman et al. (2013) examined the phenomenon of implicit bias and found that “research suggests that implicit bias may contribute to health care disparities by shaping physician behavior and producing differences in medical treatment along the lines of race, ethnicity, gender or other characteristics” (p. 1504).  These authors not only provide evidence of the existence of implicit bias among physicians but they also highlight studies that demonstrate implicit bias in clinical decision-making (Chapman et al., 2013).  

Have you encountered implicit bias as a client or patient?

If you are a white midwife, what have you done to learn more about your own implicit biases?


Bridges, K. (2011). Reproducing race: An ethnography of pregnancy as a site of racialization. Oakland, CA: Univ of California Press.


Chapman, E. N., Kaatz, A., & Carnes, M. (2013). Physicians and implicit bias: How doctors may unwittingly perpetuate health care disparities. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 28(11), 1504-1510. doi:10.1007/s11606-013-2441-1

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