INTRODUCTION: Women of color are at increased risk for poor birth outcomes, often driven by upstream social determinants and socially structured systems. Given the increasing rate of maternal mortality in the United States, particularly for women of color, there is a pressing need to find solutions to improving care quality and access for racially marginalized communities. This study aims to describe and thematically analyze the recommendations to improve pregnancy and birth care made by women of color with lived experience of perinatal health care.
METHODS: Twenty-two women of color living in the San Francisco Bay Area and receiving support services from a community-based nonprofit organization participated in semistructured interviews about their experiences receiving health care during pregnancy and birth. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed, and transcripts were analyzed using thematic analysis to highlight recommendations for improving perinatal care experiences.
RESULTS: Participants shared experiences and provided recommendations for improving care at the individual health care provider level, including spending quality time, relationship building and making meaningful connections, individualized person-centered care, and partnership in decision making. At the health systems level, recommendations included continuity of care, racial concordance with providers, supportive health care system structures to meet the needs of women of color, and implicit bias trainings and education to reduce judgment, stereotyping, and discrimination.
DISCUSSION: Participants in this study shared practical ways that health care providers and systems can improve pregnancy and birth care experiences for women of color. In addition to the actions needed to address the recommendations, health care providers and systems need to listen more closely to women of color as experts on their experiences in order to create effective change. Community-centered research, driven by and for women of color, is essential to improve health disparities during pregnancy and birth.