Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have determined Black women are more than three times as likely to die of pregnancy or birth-related complications than white women. Previous research has determined racism, implicit biases, and stereotypical scripts held by doctors have greatly contributed to these devastating maternal health disparities. My dissertation research seeks to address this grim reality by investigating the ways the presence or absence of a birth worker(s) (midwife and/or doula) impacts how Black women talk about their experiences with pregnancy, labor and delivery, and the postpartum periods. Further, I interrogate how a recent trend of return to midwifery practices (Luke 2018), in conjunction with the growing medical expertise in obstetrics and gynecology (Davis 2020), can be beneficial to Black women, their pregnancies, and their children—especially if they are built on insights gained from Black women’s birthing experiences. Midwifery, which has a rich and well documented history, especially within African societies (Dempsey 1949) as the earliest records of practicing midwives existed in Ancient Egypt (Fouly, McCool, and Koucoi 2012) serves as the basis of obstetric and gynecological knowledge. Tracing midwifery’s roots from Ancient Egypt to its legacy in the United States Deep South, I set out to investigate Black women’s plans for their future pregnancies and births, as well as their remembrances of previous experiences with pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. Additionally, I investigate birth workers’ experiences with their client’s births. My goal, in light of the devastating maternal and infant health disparities, is to gain deeper understanding about Black birthing women’s experiences within the birth realm and birth worker’s role in cultivating and maintaining Black women’s wellness.

Date

8-23-2021

Committee Chair

Becker, Sarah

Available for download on Tuesday, August 15, 2028

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