July 15, 2018

Structural and Socio-cultural Barriers to Prenatal Care in a US Marshallese Community

Britni L Ayers, Rachel S Purvis, Willaimina Ioanna Bing, Jellesen Rubon-Chutaro, Nicola L Hawley, Rebecca Delafield, Ingrid K Adams, Pearl Anna McElfish

Pending PubMed Central Publication
Maternal and Child Health Journal

Objectives: Pacific Islanders are disproportionately burdened by poorer perinatal health outcomes with higher rates of pre-term births, low birth weight babies, infant mortality, and inadequate or no prenatal care. The aim of this study is to examine Marshallese mothers’ beliefs, perceptions, and experiences of prenatal care and to identify potential barriers. Methods Three focus groups were conducted with Marshallese mothers, who were 18 years or older, and living in Arkansas. Focus groups focused on mothers’ beliefs, perceptions, and experiences of prenatal care. A thematic qualitative analysis was conducted to identify salient themes within the data. Results The results demonstrated that negotiating health insurance, transportation, and language barriers were all major structural barriers that constrain prenatal care. The social-cultural barriers that emerged included a lack of understanding of the importance of seeking early and consistent prenatal care, as well as how to navigate the healthcare process. The more complicated challenges that emerged were the feelings of shame and embarrassment due to the perception of their age or being unmarried during pregnancy not being acceptable in American culture. Furthermore, the participants described perceived discrimination from prenatal care providers. Lastly, the participants described fear as a barrier to seeking out prenatal care. Conclusions for Practice This study identified both structural and socio-cultural barriers that can be incorporated into suggestions for policy makers to aid in alleviating maternal health disparities among Pacific Islander women. Further research is needed to address the Marshallese mothers’ perceived discrimination from maternal health care providers.

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