The mothers' voices project: A phenomenological study exploring the life experiences of African American women who have experienced fetal or infant death

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Brown, Kyrah K.
Lewis-Moss, Rhonda K.

The persistent Black-White disparity in perinatal outcomes is a serious public health issue. Infants born to Black women are two times more likely than white infants to die before the age of one. Prior research has focused primarily on Black women's exposure to risk and protective factors during pregnancy. The life course perspective serves as a useful framework for understanding how Black women's early life experiences influence later health and birth outcomes. Prevention efforts guided by the life course perspective will be key in addressing adverse perinatal outcomes among Black women. The present study is a community-based participatory research partnership with the Kansas Infant Death and SIDS Network, Inc. A transcendental phenomenological approach was used to describe the life experiences, preceding fetal or infant death, among Black women. Five Black women (ages 20-36) were interviewed about their experiences from early childhood through adulthood. Results identified eight broad themes: early childhood context, personal relationships, exposure to multiple sources of stress, maintenance of mental wellness, sexual and reproductive health experiences, pregnancy experiences, health system experience and exposure to fetal/infant death. Life timelines were also generated for each participant to describe life course patterns. The essential, invariant structure described the essence of bereaved Black women's lived experience and was validated through the process of member checking. The findings indicate that black women encounter multi-level risk and protective processes over the course of their life which may impact their own health and their reproductive health advantage. The present study is the only identifiable phenomenological, life course-informed study of black women who have experienced infant death. The results suggest that life course perspective is an appropriate framework for understanding the lived experience of Black women.

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Thesis (Ph.D.)-- Wichita State University, Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of Psychology