Insecure Birth: A Qualitative Study of Everyday Violence During Pregnancy in Port au Prince, Haiti

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 3-3-2022

Publication Title

Maternal and Child Health Journal


Geisel School of Medicine

Additional Department

Department of Anthropology


While the city offers economic opportunities for women in many countries, their safety and security remain vulnerable to urban violence, especially in poor areas. In Haiti, poor urban women may be subjected to multiple forms of physical, sexual, and structural violence leading to adverse birth outcomes. We explored some of the complexities of how pregnancy is experienced under the reality and threat of urban violence in Haiti. We examined data from focus group discussions with fourteen women who lived in severely disenfranchised neighborhoods in Port au Prince and who were pregnant or had recently delivered at the time of the study. We report on three recurring themes that emerged from the discussion: (a) ways in which the threat or experience of violence affected women’s ability to access maternal healthcare, (b) ways in which women altered their behavior to accommodate everyday violence, and (c) the extent to which violence was embedded in women’s consensual and non-consensual sexual encounters with perpetrators. We found that Haitian women considered violence, labeled ensekirite (insecurity), to be an everyday threat in their lives and that they strategized ways to access maternal health care and other services while navigating ensekirite. Pregnancy adds another layer of vulnerability that may necessitate further negotiations with the threat and presence of violence. The pervasiveness and impact of urban violence in women’s daily lives needs to be better evaluated in maternal and newborn health research and programs.