The perinatal experiences of blind women
Women who are blind become mothers at the same rate as sighted women. This qualitative descriptive study is the first exploration of their obstetric experiences from a nursing perspective. This study aimed to identify and describe the physical and attitudinal barriers experienced by blind women during the perinatal period. The perinatal period includes the pregnancy, childbirth, and the puerperium. Intersectionality is used as a theoretical underpinning because it is designed to investigate the experiences of historically marginalized individuals with multiple stigmatized identities. Using the multiple axis approach of intersectionality, this study is an initial critical investigation of a group that shares three distinct intersecting identities. All the participants in this study were women (sameness) who are blind (sameness), and who have recently experienced childbirth (sameness). The study explored the significance of these differences in the presence of cultural and healthcare practices and/or expectations (power). The participants described encountering attitudinal, physical, and institutional barriers. The data was analyzed using conventional content analysis, and five main themes emerged: (a) information remains inaccessible, (b) mobility issues, (c) fear of losing custody, (d) comradery among blind mothers, and (e) stigma is real. This study found that paperwork is still inaccessible and that “documents in alternate format” as directed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are unavailable. The findings emphasize that this population is fearful of social services because blind mothers may lose custody of their newborns due to unwarranted interventions of social workers. Blind mother support groups function as catch-all networks for adaptive resources, emotional support, hands-on baby care, and discourse prep. Discourse prep teaches new members how to respond to probing questions from healthcare workers and social workers. New findings that were not previously described in the literature are identified. These findings include a decrease in help-seeking behaviors due to the participants’ fear of social services. Evidence of stigmatized interactions throughout the entire perinatal period. Nurses and other providers assume that blind women are not able to safely care for their newborns. This study illustrates that there is much opportunity for future research in this topic.