birth; pregnancy; doulas; neighborhood; community; concept mapping


Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Maternal and Child Health | Public Health | Women's Health


Objectives: Limited research explores the potential pathways by which neighborhoods influence pregnancy or how community members conceptualize and interpret how neighborhood contexts and living environments influence pregnancy and birth.

Study Design: We applied participatory Concept Mapping and a series of focused discussions with community-based doulas and mothers.

Methods: We collaborated with a community-based doula program to investigate how mothers and community doulas perceived the neighborhood to influence reproductive health. We conducted a series of focused discussions including ‘Brainstorming’ to uncover key themes related to how neighborhood context influenced pregnancy, ‘Sorting and Rating’ of key themes in association with pregnancy and birth outcomes, and further discussion to uncover potential relationships. Data from the ‘Sorting and Rating’ activities were entered into Concept Systems software to generate concept maps of the themes and ideas discussed.

Results: The women identified 79 key themes/items related to the neighborhood context that they thought were important for pregnancy and birth. Participants ranked most of the neighborhood factors as moderate or high in importance in influencing pregnancy health and birth. These 79 items were further aggregated to develop 9 clusters related to various themes such as ‘Access/Potential Barriers to Adequate Care,’ ‘The Environment and Infrastructure,’ ‘Neighborhood History, Demographics and Dynamics,’ ‘Community, Relationships, and Autonomy.’ The group further discussed how neighborhood contexts have a particularly influence on individual behaviors such as physical activity; and how key infrastructure issues such as transportation may impede or facilitate access to resources important for health.

Conclusion: This study provides additional insight into how neighborhoods may influence pregnancy and birth and how multiple neighborhood factors may act synergistically to influence health. Concept mapping and community perspectives reinforce the importance of participant and community input in developing future research and interventions.