Elder women's perceptions around optimal perinatal health: a constructivist grounded-theory study with an Indigenous community in southern Ontario
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BACKGROUND: Women play important roles in translating health knowledge, particularly around pregnancy and birth, in Indigenous societies. We investigated elder Indigenous women's perceptions around optimal perinatal health. METHODS: Using a methodological framework that integrated a constructivist grounded-theory approach with an Indigenous epistemology, we conducted and analyzed in-depth interviews and focus groups with women from the Six Nations community in southern Ontario who self-identified as grandmothers. Our purposive sampling strategy was guided by a Six Nations advisory group and included researcher participation in a variety of local gatherings as well as personalized invitations to specific women, either face-to-face or via telephone. RESULTS: Three focus groups and 7 individual interviews were conducted with 18 grandmothers. The participants' experiences converged on 3 primary beliefs: pregnancy is a natural phase, pregnancy is a sacred period for the woman and the unborn child, and the requirements of immunity, security (trust), comfort, social development and parental responsibility are necessary for optimal postnatal health. Participants also identified 6 communal responsibilities necessary for families to raise healthy children: access to healthy and safe food, assurance of strong social support networks for mothers, access to resources for postnatal support, increased opportunities for children to participate in physical activity, more teachings around the impact of maternal behaviours during pregnancy and more teachings around spirituality/positive thinking. We also worked with the Six Nations community on several integrated knowledge-translation elements, including collaboration with an Indigenous artist to develop a digital story (short film). INTERPRETATION: Elder women are a trusted and knowledgeable group who are able to understand and incorporate multiple sources of knowledge and deliver it in culturally meaningful ways. Thus, tailoring public health programming to include elder women's voices may improve the impact and uptake of perinatal health information for Indigenous women.