MATERNAL HEALTHCARE IN THE UNITED STATES
This project examines how structural factors—including racism, sexism and discrimination—impact patients’ experiences on the ground. Sobering reports of increasing rates of maternal trauma and the disparate experiences among women of color have renewed concerns surrounding maternal health care. I am especially interested in analyzing the role that power dynamics and discrimination along the lines of race, language, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and marital status play in shaping the health care experiences of pregnant women across the nation. I am working on two components of this project. The first is a historical exploration of the social conditions that have led to these deficiencies in maternal care by examining the impact of the increased specialization of biomedicine, the heavy reliance on medical technologies in childbirth, the embedded nature of structural racism and sexism in the health care system and in medical education, and the highly politicized nature of women’s bodies and women’s health. I have been analyzing documents to compare shifts in obstetrical care practices in the United States with broader socio-cultural movements around civil rights and women’s health. The second component of this project involves an examination of open user internet forums and qualitative interviews with individuals regarding pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum care experiences—with focus on experiences related to trauma and discrimination. Interviews are also being conducted with health care providers who offer prenatal and postpartum care to women.