Reimagining Postpartum Care
SCU’s Veronica Miranda is conducting research on improving postpartum care for Latinx individuals, inspired by her own experiences with childbirth.
By Sarah Stoddard ’23
In our world, there are countless cases of injustice and areas where people in need are left behind. This is especially true in the realm of postpartum care for women. Santa Clara University’s Veronica Miranda (Anthropology) is doing something to change this. Inspired by her own experiences with childbirth, her research—focused on increasing access to maternal healthcare among the Latinx community in Santa Clara County—will work towards providing underserved women with the postnatal care they need in collaboration with community-based partnerships.
Throughout her career as a medical anthropologist, Miranda has conducted plenty of research on reproductive health including studying childbirth practices and working with indigenous midwives in rural communities in Southern Mexico. “I had a lot of experience with pregnancy and childbirth. But very little of my research actually focused on postpartum care. That was okay with me, for a while,” she explains. “Until I had my own children.” Miranda discovered that a huge gap exists in addressing the needs of parents after they give birth. Much of the attention is focused on the child, and very little attention is given to the mother after birth.
After Miranda had her first child, she was unaware until a delayed diagnosis that she had experienced postpartum depression and anxiety, or Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD), which affects 1 in 5 women in the United States. “It was pretty debilitating and isolating because I didn’t know what it was for a long time,” she says. “I doubted myself, I doubted why I was feeling this way, and I had no one other than my partner to really support me during this.” When she was finally diagnosed a year and a half after giving birth, she felt a huge sense of relief. But this diagnosis was also a wake-up call to the fact that there is so much that needs to be done to increase awareness of PMAD and to make sure individuals who give birth are receiving proper medical care during postpartum.
Miranda’s research is focused specifically on postpartum care for Latinx individuals as this community is particularly affected by the lack of service. The goals for her research align with a 2018 statement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists which explains the changes that need to be made including tailoring services to individual needs and reimagining postpartum care as an ongoing process, rather than a single appointment. According to this statement, up to 40% of women don’t attend a postpartum visit, and these numbers are much higher for marginalized populations. And for those who do receive care, it is minimal, infrequent, or comes too late. “That’s what I really want to highlight in the research that I’m doing—what are those longer-term experiences that maybe just get forgotten or ignored and dealt with on your own?” Miranda says. “Postpartum doesn’t need to be that way.”
Even in the early stages, Miranda’s research has already seen success. The project is centered locally to enhance community participation and partnership in this research. Miranda wanted the project to be collaborative from the beginning, so she is happy to currently be working with two community organizations as well as other faculty at Santa Clara. She just received funding from a Bannan Mission Integration Grant, along with Alice Villatoro (Public Health), to extend her research, which will allow them to lead focus groups and educational seminars on perinatal mental health among Latinx individuals in San Jose.
Student research assistants at SCU play an important role in these community partnerships and Miranda’s work as a whole. The students Miranda has mentored, Eleanor Carper ’22 (Anthropology, Psychology), Liz Reynoso ’22 (History, Biology), and Justin Lee ’23 (Public Health), have engaged in the research process by creating literature reviews on topics in postpartum care, working on getting an Institutional Review Board approval to conduct the research, and more. Some in-person data collection was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but Miranda’s research assistants have since been approved to participate in volunteer hours with the local community organizations. Through volunteering, they were able to not only support these community partners and their work, but to also observe and understand these organizations and their relationship with the community. While working, students created ethnographic field notes on what they observed, which will be incorporated into Miranda’s qualitative data.
Going forward, Miranda’s plans are to continue to collaborate with community partners and other researchers in the field as a survey is formulated surrounding postpartum care experiences. “The survey is the first step in identifying the needs of individuals who have given birth,” she explains. “After that, focus groups and one-on-one interviews will be really important to do with people who have given birth in the area.”
Miranda’s project will be furthered by her new position as an assistant professor at SCU; until recently, she was working as a postdoctoral research fellow in the department. “As an assistant professor, the University has made this commitment to support me and give me the time and resources to further engage with my research,” she says. Additionally, one of the things Miranda is most excited about in her new position is the opportunity to mentor and work closely with more students and guide them through the research process. This has already been extremely rewarding. “It has been really fun, I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve just been really proud of all the work that students have done and how they’ve grown throughout the process.” As her research continues and expands, collaboration with students, colleagues at SCU, and community partners will continue to be a fundamental aspect of Miranda’s work.