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Canadian Indigenous Womens Perspectives of Maternal Health and Health Care Services: A Systematic Review

Development of policies and interventions to address health disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations requires a comprehensive understanding of Indigenous people’s experiences and perspectives of healthcare services. We systematically reviewed the published literature on Canadian Indigenous women’s experiences and perspectives of maternal healthcare during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. Major bibliographic databases (including PubMed, CINAHL, EMBASE, SCOPUS, and SSCI) were searched for published studies (1990–March 2015) in English. Reference lists of identified articles were searched to identify additional articles. 92 articles were retrieved for further review, of which 16 studies were included: 8 on maternal healthcare and/or medical evacuation; 3 on gestational diabetes mellitus; 3 on the impact of policies on maternal health; and 2 on maternal weight changes and/or breastfeeding. The included studies described 1043 participants: Indigenous peoples (n=918) and non-Indigenous peoples (n=125) who were mothers or pregnant women (n=814), healthcare providers or workers in a health-related field (n=132), and fathers, Elders, or other community members (n=97). Availability of healthcare resources, healthcare services’ consideration of socio-economic or lifestyle barriers to health, and the impact of colonization on interactions with healthcare providers were main factors that impacted Indigenous women’s maternal health experiences. Medical evacuation was often due to limited maternity care options available in remote communities, and was associated with emotional, physical, and financial stress. This review highlights the importance of consistent health policies and practices for maternal health in Canada and providing culturally safe and patient-centered maternity healthcare services within indigenous communities.


Sangita Sharma, Fariba Kolahdooz, Katherine Launier, Forouz Nader, Kyoung June Yi, Philip Baker, Tara-Leigh McHugh, Helen Vallianatos

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