Introduction Comprehension of healthcare terminology across diverse populations is critical to patient education and engagement. Methods Women in Oahu, Hawai'i with a recent delivery were interviewed about their understanding of ten common obstetric terms. Health literacy was assessed by the rapid estimate of adult literacy in medicine (REALM). Multivariable models predicted total terms comprehended by demographic factors. Results Of 269 participants, self-reported primary race was 20.5% Japanese, 19.0% Native Hawaiian, 19.0% White, 16.7% Filipino, 11.5% other Asian, 9.7% other Pacific Islander, and 3.7% other race/ethnicity; 12.7% had low health literacy. On average, participants understood 6.0 (SD: 2.2) of ten common obstetric terms. Comprehension varied by term, ranging from 97.8% for "Breastfeeding" to 27.5% for "VBAC routinely available." Models showed (1) being Filipino, Japanese, Native Hawaiian, or other Pacific Islander (vs. white); (2) having low (vs. adequate) health literacy; (3) having a high school (vs. a college) degree; and (4) being under 25-years-old (vs. 35 +) were significantly associated with less comprehension. Discussion Participants were unfamiliar with common obstetrics terminology. Comprehension struggles were more common among populations with maternal health disparities, including Asian and Pacific Islander subgroups, and those with low health literacy.
Keywords: Asians; Health disparities; Obstetrics; Pacific Islanders; Patient communication.