Lived experiences of low-wage, working women in Texas without paid postpartum leave



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This qualitative, phenomenological study explored the lived experiences of low-wage, working women (LWWW) in Texas without paid postpartum leave (PPL). The USA remains one of the few countries in the world that does not provide the formal, functional social support of PPL. Postpartum is one of the most sensitive times for women and their infants, and paid postpartum leave (PPL) is a policy that some countries have invested in for the health of their most vulnerable citizens (Albanese, et al., 2020; Andres, et al., 2016; Avendano, et al., 2015; Bose, et al., 2020; Dagher, et al., 2014; Hennekam, 2019; Perry-Jenkins, et al., 2017). PPL leave is especially impactful for LWWW, whose families often experience poverty due to time away from work or return to work before recovering from childbirth because they cannot afford unpaid leave (Andres, et al., 2016; Berrigan, et al., 2021; Beuchert, et al., 2016; Winston, et al., 2019). Framed by the life course approach and socioecological model, this study explored eight women’s experiences during their postpartum year using semi-structured interviews. Coding followed Creswell’s (2013) data analysis spiral, which consists of organizing the data, reviewing transcripts and any other data several times, identifying general categories or themes, and finally summarizing the data for readers. Coding began with reading transcripts while “memoing” overarching categories that appear (Leedy & Ormond, 2016). Next, information was reviewed to organize the data into significant statements and common phrases related to each research question. The researcher used hand-coding to help in identifying overarching themes. Significant statements and common phrases were organized into themes or categories (Leedy & Ormond, 2016). Finally, the themes were integrated into a narrative describing the participants’ experiences with unpaid postpartum leave. Themes identified were: (a) lack of systemic, equitable postpartum policies, (b) personal and financial challenges, (c) support, and (d) resiliency. Findings support increased health education that normalizes and educates about the transition to motherhood (matrescence). In addition, future research to identify those constructs that empowered participants to overcome their challenges can inform interventions focused on building resiliency in this population.



Low-wage, working women, Postpartum paid leave