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Exploring the complex context of Indigenous women’s maternity experiences in the Okanagan valley, British Columbia by expanding on Aboriginal women’s responses to the Canadian maternity experiences survey Leason, Jennifer Lynn


Indigenous women’s experiences during pregnancy, birth and the early months of parenthood are important to understand their strengths, gaps, needs, priorities and barriers in order to address maternal and child health disparities. Despite clear evidence on how social determinants of health influence health, there is limited research that includes the perspectives and experiences of Indigenous women. The purpose of my research was to explore Indigenous women’s maternity experiences. An interdisciplinary theoretical perspective that includes decolonized and Indigenous methodology, social determinants of health theory, critical medical anthropology, and feminist scholarship informs my research. I conducted an analysis of Indigenous women’s (N=410) responses to the Canadian Maternity Experiences Survey (PHAC 2009), followed by ethnographic research with ten Indigenous mothers in the Okanagan Valley, BC. Individual in-depth interviews and participant-observations were analyzed using thematic content analysis, which is organized into proximal, intermediate and distal contexts of Indigenous women’s maternity experiences. The aim of my research was to expand upon my MES findings and to explore the complex context of Indigenous women’s maternity experiences and to understand why they experience higher frequency of stressors, violence and postpartum depression. Each woman’s maternity experience is shaped by her unique circumstance. My findings suggest that Indigenous women’s maternity experiences are embedded within their historical, social and cultural experiences, thus illustrating the importance of addressing and alleviating social determinants of health. My research highlights and contextualizes Indigenous women’s narratives of stress, barriers and experiences of accessing maternity healthcare, the impacts of colonization, and concludes with Indigenous women’s strength and resiliency as women warriors. My dissertation contributes to expanding research on Indigenous women’s maternity experiences as a way of moving forward for culturally safe and improved maternal-child health, healthcare and maternity research

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