The Birthing Experiences of Rural Aboriginal Women in Context: Implications for Nursing

Helen Brown, Colleen Varcoe, Betty Calam

Abstract


It has been established that the birthing experiences and outcomes of rural women are shaped by poverty, isolation, limited economic opportunities, and diminishing maternity services. We lack research into how these dynamics are compounded by intersecting forms of oppression faced by Aboriginal women, to impact on their birthing experiences and outcomes. The findings of this study of rural Aboriginal maternity care in 4 communities in British Columbia show how diminishing local birthing choices and women's struggles to exert power, choice, and control are influenced by centuries of colonization. The research questions focus on rural Aboriginal women's experiences of birthing and maternity care in this neocolonial context and their desire for supportive birthing environments. A community-based participatory and ethnographic design was employed. Individual interviews, focus groups, and participant observation were the primary data sources. Although the women's experiences in each community were shaped by distinct histories and traditions, economics, politics, and geographies, the impacts of colonization and medical paternalism and the struggle for control of women's bodies during birth intersect, placing additional stress on women. The implications for nurses of accounting for the intersecting dynamics that shape Aboriginal women's experiences and birth outcomes are discussed.

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