Are indigenous research principles incorporated into maternal health research? A scoping review of the global literature

Kaitlin Patterson, Jan Sargeant, Seungmi Yang, Tricia McGuire-Adams, Lea Berrang-Ford, Shuaib Lwasa, Batwa Communities, Vivienne Steele, Sherilee L. Harper,
Are indigenous research principles incorporated into maternal health research? A scoping review of the global literature, Social Science & Medicine, 2021,114629, ISSN 0277-9536,



Indigenous women world-wide are diverse and heterogenous, yet many have similar experiences of colonization, land dispossession, and discrimination. These experiences along with inequitable access to, and quality of, maternal healthcare increase adverse maternal health outcomes. To improve health outcomes for Indigenous women, studies must be conducted with Indigenous involvement and reflect Indigenous research principles.

Objectives/Aim: The aim of this review was to explore the range, extent, and nature of Indigenous maternal health research and to assess the reporting of Indigenous research principles in the global Indigenous maternal health literature.


Following a systematic scoping review protocol, four scholarly electronic databases were searched. Articles were included if they reported empirical research published between 2000 and 2019 and had a focus on Indigenous maternal health. Descriptive data were extracted from relevant articles and descriptive analysis was conducted. Included articles were also assessed for reporting of Indigenous research principles, including Indigenous involvement, context of colonization, Indigenous conceptualizations of health, community benefits, knowledge dissemination to participants or communities, and policy or intervention recommendations.


Four-hundred and forty-one articles met the inclusion criteria. While studies were conducted in all continents except Antarctica, less than 3% of articles described research in low-income countries. The most researched topics were access to and quality of maternity care (25%), pregnancy outcome and/or complications (18%), and smoking, alcohol and/or drug use during pregnancy (14%). The most common study design was cross-sectional (49%), and the majority of articles used quantitative methods only (68%). Less than 2% of articles described or reported all Indigenous research principles, and 71% of articles did not report on Indigenous People’s involvement.


By summarizing the trends in published literature on Indigenous maternal health, we highlight the need for increased geographic representation of Indigenous women, expansion of research to include important but under-researched topics, and meaningful involvement of Indigenous Peoples.

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