Date of Completion


Embargo Period



severe maternal morbidity, Black women

Major Advisor

Ivy Alexander

Associate Advisor

Cheryl Beck

Associate Advisor

Annette Jakubisin Konicki

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


In the United States, Black women have a long history of poor maternal health outcomes. Black women are three to four times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related complication and twice as likely to experience severe maternal morbidity when compared to White women. A serious gap exists in our knowledge of the reasons for health disparities in maternal health; factors contributing to disparities in maternal health are complex and not clearly understood. The experience of severe maternal morbidity among Black women can assist with identifying the causes of these disparities and assist with the development of interventions to address the issue. The purpose of this study was to better understand the experiences of Black women who experienced severe maternal morbidity during childbirth and postpartum. The principles of van Manen’s interpretive phenomenology (1990) were the methodology used for this study.

The purposeful sample included nine participants who were all female, Black, and who experienced a severe complication during childbirth or postpartum. Essential themes of their experience identified were: 1. I Only Know What I Know; 2. Faced with Uncertainty; 3. How You Cared For me: subtheme 1: Part of someone’s routine; subtheme 2: Felt safe and cared for; 4. Race matters; and 5. Still healing. The themes demonstrate the complexity of severe maternal morbidity among Black women and the influence of the role of health care professionals. This study contributes to the knowledge of the experience of severe maternal morbidity and provides a foundation for future studies that investigate disparities in maternal health.