Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 2009


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name





School of Nursing

Committee Chair

Mary Ann Thurkettle

Committee Member

Cynthia Persily

Committee Member

Carolyn Nickerson


Health Sciences, Obstetrics and Gynecology


The research study was undertaken to help fill the gap in understanding the disparity between the current preterm birth rates of African American women and White women. A phenomenological methodology was used with a sample of seven African American women who had experienced preterm birth. The findings provide insight into experience of a pregnancy that ends in preterm birth.

An in-depth understanding of the contextual factors associated with preterm birth in African American women was provided through a description of experiences as voiced by the participants themselves. Their stories provided rich, detailed data and insight into their lived experiences, revealing new insights and perspectives on the phenomenon of the African American pregnancy ending in preterm birth. Two Themes emerged: "Strong Black Woman Ideal" and "Feeling Trapped."

Awareness regarding the need to "peel back" layers of generational factors which influence stress on and the types of stressors specific to African American women were noted. While it is safe to say that stressors, stress, and stress responses are experienced by all pregnant women, it may be that African American women are unique in their cumulative experiences of and response to stress.

Reflection on and review of extant knowledge in the literature on the extracted themes revealed some concepts that may be related to the extracted themes "Strong Black Woman Image" and "Feeling Trapped. " Permeating both themes was the experience of stress these women felt in having to live up to self- and other-imposed expectations of strength resulting from the image of a strong Black woman and feeling trapped by the expectations of the image, along with other responsibilities and obligations. The end result is feelings of being trapped by the expectations of that image and a pregnancy that is affected by the cumulative effects of the two.

Knowledge gained from this study will contribute to future knowledge development regarding factors that may be associated with preterm birth among African American women.