For the past two summers Irina Rojas ’18 has volunteered as a translator in the Labor and Delivery Unit at Tufts Medical Center. This year her interest in the reproductive health experiences of pregnant women with high-risk pregnancies (pregnancies that pose risks to the baby, the mother or both) has now led to her own research project with women’s studies professor Cara Jones. Rojas' research is funded by a Levitt Center grant.
“I noticed that many of the women with high-risk pregnancies faced many emotional hardships during their hospital stay, due to being isolated from friends and family or being restricted from doing their usual activities or work, while keeping up with their bills and often being single mothers,” Rojas explained. “I began to realize that many of the hardships that these women face are not solely due to physical impairments, but perhaps also are created and proliferated by gendered expectations of motherhood and a lack of adequate social support such as unpaid maternity leave.”
Over the course of her research, Rojas will look at the personal reproductive health experiences among women with high-risk pregnancies, domestic and international maternity leave policies and gender and disability theories.
Her research consists of two parts: a literature review of feminist disability scholars and a comprehensive and IRB-approved set of interview questions. The majority of her time, however, will be spent personally interviewing women with high-risk pregnancies. With both a literature review and interviews at Tufts Medical Center, Rojas will collect both qualitative and quantitative data for her research, which will culminate in a poster presentation and research paper in the fall.
Although her research is not yet completed, so far Rojas has interviewed more than 10 women, the majority of whom have self-identified as Hispanic and/or single. “It makes me wonder if there may be any demographic reasons for why someone might be at a greater risk of having a high-risk pregnancy,” she remarked.
Rojas said the most interesting discovery she has made so far is a common thread found among all the women she has interviewed: “They all mention experiencing ‘mother blame’ with regard to the pregnancy (blaming themselves and their individual actions and choices of the past for the complications of the pregnancy, even though it may be entirely out of their hands),” she noted.
There is much improvement to be made in women’s reproductive experiences, and Rojas’ research is an important step toward progress in this area.
After Hamilton, Rojas aspires to become a nurse practitioner and also to follow her interest in women’s healthcare policy, both of which are greatly reinforced in her current research.