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Decision-Making About Motherhood in Canadian WLiving with HIV: A Negotiation of Multidimensional Risks

18 September 2018
Karolanne O'Keefe

Publication Date
July 2018

Original Abstract
Little research in Canada has examined the perspectives of women living with HIV on decision-making across the stages of motherhood. In 2004-2005, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 42 African, Caucasian and Haitian HIV-positive women recruited in Montreal. All were or wished to be biological mothers. Transcripts underwent thematic analysis organised by three culturally informed models of motherhood described by the participants, which influenced decision-making and perceived risks.

For women who saw motherhood as 'self-fulfilment and completeness', vertical HIV transmission was a primary concern. It threatened their identity as a 'good mother', which also meant adhering to antiretrovirals. For women who viewed motherhood as a 'social realisation' (all African or Haitian), fears of compromised fertility dominated. Not becoming pregnant threatened their social status and presumed health within their community. Antiretrovirals were abandoned after delivery, fearing they would reveal their HIV status. For women endorsing a 'personal growth' model of motherhood (all Caucasian), threats to personal health were paramount. Pregnancy meant purifying body and soul. Antiretrovirals, seen as pollutants, were stopped after delivery.

These findings can inform current research and sensitise health providers to the complex biological, psychological, social and spiritual risks that HIV-positive women negotiate in motherhood-related decision-making, towards more patient-centred care.

Toupin, I., Engler, K., Lebouche, B., Otis, J., Josy Levy, J. and Fernet, M. (2018). Decision-making about motherhood in Canadian women living with HIV: a negociation of multidimensional risks.Culture Health & Sexuality. DOI: 10.1080/13691058.2018.1487585.

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women, maternity, pregnant, decision making, VIH, transmission, worries


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