Caitlin Senk, PhD is a 2024 graduate of the Counselor Education & Supervision Progam at Antioch University, Seattle.

Dissertation Committee

Katherine Fort, PhD, Committee Chair

Stephanie Thorson-Olesen, PhD, Committee Member

Angela Mensink, EdD , Committee Member


thematic analysis, photovoice, qualitative, people with uteruses, perinatal, birthing people, ecological systems theory, perinatal mental health, perinatal experiences, perinatal mental health counseling, postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, birth trauma, infertility, miscarriage, liberation psychology

Document Type


Publication Date



This study examines the lived experience of the perinatal population to understand how they can be supported from the lens of different ecological systems and what counselors can do to better serve people with uteruses during their perinatal experience. Furthermore, this study aims to utilize an inclusive framework for capturing the perinatal experience of people with uteruses and to explore barriers and facilitators to care through an ecological systems framework. Fifteen participants who have experienced infertility, conception, pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth, stillbirth, and postpartum were recruited through various means throughout the United States. Thematic analysis was used, with semi-structured interviews and photovoice, to gather and analyze participant narratives through oral and visual means in two phases. The first phase resulted in eight themes: (1) social and cultural influences, (2) navigating transitions and changes, (3) support networks and resources, (4) discrimination and stigma, (5) advocacy and empowerment, (6) mental health and well-being, (7) interactions with medical systems, and (8) impact of systems and policies. The themes identified in phase two were: (1) meaning making, (2) the emotional impact of perinatal experiences, (3) navigating roles and identities, (4) pressure and expectations, (5) advocacy and empowerment, (6) social support and community, (7) prevalence of infertility and miscarriage, and (8) challenges in healthcare. Implications of this study indicate a need for collaborative, interdisciplinary communication among providers interacting with the perinatal population and perinatal mental health competency training. This dissertation is available in open access at AURA ( and OhioLINK ETD Center (


Caitlin Senk, PhD, 2024

ORCID Scholar ID# 0009-0006-1572-5938