Birthing while Black : a qualitative exploration into the experiences and implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on Black maternal health and care in Texas




Wright, Jaylen

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Given the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on vulnerable and marginalized communities, it is essential that the unique implications of additional significant life stressors for Black women and birthing communities are carefully considered. These implications include addressing the complex intersectionality of pregnancy, gender, race, and social class and how structural inequalities which existed before the pandemic have been magnified in the COVID-19 era. Guided by an adapted stress process model, Black feminist thought, and the reproductive justice framework, this dissertation sought to qualitatively explore the lived and observed experiences of stress and perinatal care among Black mothers (Study 1; n=35) and maternity care professionals (Study 2; n=29) during the COVID-19 pandemic. Following a qualitative descriptive research design, in‐depth, semi-structured, virtual interviews were conducted with a total of 64 individuals between May and August of 2022. For Study 1, mothers recounted experiences of discrimination stress, trauma, support, and well-being as it related to the stigmas around their pregnancies and evolving motherhood. For Study 2, in addition to providing sentiments that validated the perinatal experiences shared by Black mothers in Study 1, maternity care professionals reflected on their journeys to, challenges of, and outlook for birthwork, including implications for Black maternal health. In addition to prompting dramatic changes to the delivery of maternal healthcare in the United States, findings from this dissertation have highlighted major dimensions of well-being, safety, and respectful maternity care described by Black mothers and care practitioners. Therefore, Future research should continue to center the experiences of Black mothers and include the voices of birthwork professionals around their roles in Black birth justice and maternal health equity.


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