At Yellowknife’s Aurora College, two researchers, with the help from students, will gather feedback from pregnant women from the Northwest Territories who will travel to Yellowknife to give birth.

The study aims to understand how women make decisions on who will travel to Yellowknife to support them when it’s time to deliver the baby, whether that helping individual be a partner, friend or family member.

“As nurses, we care for pregnant women coming from communities. They travel to give birth and we take care of the postpartum mother and their babies until they are ready to go home to their community,” said Dr. Sheila Cruz, one of lead team members on the project and the college’s senior instructor of health programs.

Cruz said the initiative was spurred by her observations of her patients.

“My experience of caring for mothers struggling to give birth — that excites me to know more and understand more about their experiences,” she said.

The pregnant women will take images of themselves as they travel to Yellowknife.

“The women will collect photos and share it with us, which represents their experiences of travelling for birth,” Cruz said, “Through their sharing, the women become like researchers themselves because they look at what they would like the outcome to be.”

Cruz said the women can chose how their experience is displayed, whether in a photo book that’s displayed or as an info-graph that represents their experiences, which would be published in a peer-reviewed journal and presented at conferences for NWT stakeholders.

The researchers hope their work will help women’s journeys to give birth. In the future, Cruz said this research “may assist decision-makers with improvements and considerations within the travel policies for pregnant women.”

Cruz’s co-investigator on the project, Dr. Pertice Moffitt, got involved due to a research paper she published in 2006 with Dr. Rebecca Rich on women’s health agenda.

Sara Gibbons, Kaitlyn Miklas and Samantha Morandin, all students in the third-year of the college’s bachelor of science nursing (BSN) program, will work with Moffitt.

Cruz said the students became interested in this project during their practicum because they cared for women while they were at the hospital. The Aurora College nursing students also have courses where they are involved in research and leadership.

Two students from outside the territory — Lauren Eggenberger, a medical student from University of British Columbia and Sigwart Casson, a graduate student from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. will also be involved in the initiative.

The Institute for Circumpolar Health Research is providing funding for the overall initiative. Mothers and escorts will be given a $25 Walmart gift card for participating.

The project is still at the beginning stages, Cruz said. The researchers are still seeking as many potential participants as they can find. They have had a few people reach out but “the more we get, the better (information) we will have,” she said.

The pregnant women participating have to be 19 years or older, have someone who will travel to Yellowknife with them and be willing to record their experience with a camera as it happens.

All participants in the project will travel to Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife.

This project received ethics approval in May and a research licence was approved in June.

Participants will be chosen in an interview between June and September, and the project will run until December.

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