Without Country or Kin: How a Fragile Existence Influences Birth Trauma Perception and Responses in Mexican Immigrant Mothers
- Author(s): Middleton, Ellen June
- Advisor(s): Dawson-Rose, Carol
- et al.
Traumatic birth is a term used to describe a wide-range of negative physical and mental birthing events and outcomes. An estimated one-third of women perceive mental trauma during birth. Aside from deterioration of maternal mental health, the effects of perceived traumatic birth can be observed in the entire family. Although research shows the relationship of traumatic birth to mental health, the majority has focused on European or European-American women. The profound psychological impact of birth trauma has been passed off as common to all women without considering culture, race, or context. Little is known about birth trauma experiences of Mexican immigrant women. Since Mexican immigrants comprise the largest ethnic-minority group in the United States attention to perceived traumatic birth on their health status is clear.
The purpose of this dissertation research was to describe and understand the impact of a perceived traumatic birth, the range of responses produced, and the life course context in which it occurs in Latina immigrants from Mexico.
Although recruitment took place in a low-income community-based health center in Fresno, California, most interviews were conducted in the participants’ homes. In addition to field observation and photography, twenty-one interviews were conducted with seven Mexican immigrant mothers who provided first-person accounts of their perceived traumatic births and the life course context in which it occurred. Facilitated by a certified Spanish interpreter, all interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim and analyzed via an iterative grounded theory process.
The results suggest that, in addition to the birth event, for these Mexican immigrant mothers, the process contributing to perceived traumatic birth is embedded in the profound adversity of their unique life context. The burden of crossing a militarized border, the fear of deportation, and lack of trust, mandates a self-protective silence that obscures both the adversity they endure and the resulting maladaptive psychological responses. Consequently, for Mexican immigrant mothers, undocumented status, adversity, mistrust, and the self-mandated silence that surrounds it, may be major factors affecting not only their perceived traumatic births, but their overall health. Findings inform further research, practice, and policy related to the unique needs of Mexican immigrant mothers.