Objective: To address health disparities in the perinatal period (i.e., during pregnancy and through one year after birth) by exploring the intersectional experiences of perinatal Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) women during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this study, participants were asked if and how COVID-19 had impacted their experiences of receiving healthcare, whether they had faced any challenges during this time, how they had navigated these challenges, and what recommendations they had for improving perinatal healthcare.
Methods: Between November 2021 and March 2022 our team conducted eight virtual focus groups comprising perinatal BIPOC women. A semi-structured interview protocol was used, and interviews were voice recorded and transcribed verbatim. The data were analyzed using reflexive thematic analysis.
Results: Three major themes common in BIPOC perinatal healthcare experiences during COVID-19 were generated through engaging in reflexive thematic analysis: (1) an overwhelming lack of support from providers, (2) experiences of blame and shame, and (3) difficulties navigating institutional policies that were unclear or ever-changing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recommendations from participants included greater empathic communication from providers in the face of uncertainty during COVID-19, greater access to information and guidance for caring for themselves and their babies, and an overall request for greater compassion while navigating an exciting and busy time.
Relevance: These findings have implications for trauma-informed and inclusive perinatal care that can reduce the impacts of systemic inequalities for perinatal BIPOC women. This study offers a discussion of implications for future training for maternal health providers and implications for community-based programs.
Keywords: COVID-19; Women of Color; healthcare services; intersectionality; perinatal.