Sandra Ojeaburu

Sandra Ojeaburu

2019 Undergraduate Fellow

Thesis title and description:
“Despite All Odds: Support Networks for Black Mothers in Mississippi”

“African Americans have a rich heritage of surviving and sometimes thriving in hostile contexts and much of their resilience is grounded in the community and the church.” This quote by Georgia based public health scholar, Colins Airhihenbuwa, explicates the perseverance of African Americans despite all odds. My thesis research seeks to showcase this resilience of African American women in Mississippi and their stories of reproduction, slavery, and motherhood.

To understand the barriers that black women overcome in childbearing, I first approach the topic of biological susceptibility to maternal mortality. Through an analysis of biomarkers for gestational diabetes and their relationship with other comorbidities such as obesity, I will uncover the unique barriers to care in this region. Simply, I aim to study the barriers to fertility of women with diabetes and medical comorbidities abundant in Mississippi.

My qualitative research project explores the ways in which African American women form support networks that provide prenatal care and social support during pregnancy. Moreover, it explores the factors that influence women’s understandings of their sexual health, pregnancy, nutrition and identity. My project depends on ethnographic fieldwork that will draw on experiences with women of color, reproductive justice advocates, teen health nonprofits and interviews with health care professionals. As its main research questions, it asks: What social support networks are established for pregnant women of color? How do these networks compare with the formal, medicalized maternal healthcare system in Mississippi? And how do these support networks satisfy the priorities that women have when seeking care?