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Abstract

Geographic barriers and shortages of healthcare professionals in rural America have been well documented. These barriers and shortages influence rural women’s access to maternity and associated healthcare services during pregnancy and mothers’ postpartum period, but their perspectives about these realities have been overlooked. Semi-structured interviews with 24 mothers residing in a rural North Dakota county were conducted to understand their perspectives about both accessing healthcare services and parenting children in a rural context, with emphasis on understanding these mothers’ experiences using non-rural maternity care. Thematic analysis of qualitative interview data led to the emergence of three core themes. First, mothers in the sample minimized geographic barriers they had to overcome to access healthcare despite describing significant travel and weather challenges. Second, mothers expressed concern over the lack of affordable and flexible childcare in their rural community. Finally, mothers described different experiences within rural and non-rural settings, noting specific advantages and disadvantages of each. Although our findings cannot be generalized to other rural mothers, local qualitative inquiry can inform and improve the competency of social work services within rural communities.

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