The Sound of Silence: Unspoken Meaning in the Discourse of Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women on Environmental Risks and Food Safety in Spain.

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(1) Background: In recent years, a growing number of qualitative health research studies have performed discourse analysis of data from participants' narratives. However, little attention has been paid to the gaps and silences within these narratives. The aim of the present study is to interpret the silences detected in the discourse of pregnant and breastfeeding women concerning environmental risks and food safety. (2) Methods: This descriptive, interpretive, observational study was conducted according to a qualitative research paradigm and from a phenomenological and ethnographic perspective. The study sample was composed of 88 intentionally selected women, among whom fifty interviews, three ethnographies and five focus groups were conducted. Data coding and analysis were performed using N-Vivo 12 software. (3) Results: The results obtained show that the women's discourse presented silences that reflected their minimisation of perceived environmental and food risks. However, these women were wary of food produced in the proximity of contaminated areas. Nevertheless, the participants believed they were powerless to overcome environmental pollution and the potential contamination of their own bodies. (4) Conclusions: The participants' minimisation of the environmental risks faced and their inaction in this respect are sustained by the biopolitical practices of public institutions, which have propelled these women into a situation of learned helplessness and social injustice.
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biopolitics, breastfeeding, environmental pollution, food, learned helplessness, pregnancy, silences