Publication Title: Social Science & Medicine
Abstract: Accumulating evidence indicates that health crises can play a key role in precipitating or exacerbating poverty. For women of reproductive age in low-income countries, the complications of pregnancy are a common cause of acute health crisis, yet investigation of longer-term dynamics set in motion by such events, and their interactions with other aspects of social life, is rare. This article presents findings from longitudinal qualitative research conducted in Burkina Faso over 2004–2010. Guided by an analytic focus on patterns of continuity and change, and drawing on recent discussions on the notion of “resilience,” and the concepts of “social capital” and “bodily capital,” we explore the trajectories of 16 women in the aftermath of costly acute health care episodes. The synthesis of case studies shows that, in conditions of structural inequity and great insecurity, an individual’s social capital ebbs and flow over time, resulting in a trajectory of multiple adaptations. Women’s capacity to harness or exploit bodily capital in its various forms (beauty, youthfulness, physical strength, fertility) to some extent determines their ability to confront and overcome adversities. With this, they are able to further mobilize social capital without incurring excessive debt, or to access and accumulate significant new social capital. Temporary self-displacement, often to the parental home, is also used as a weapon of negotiation in intra-household conflict and to remind others of the value of one’s productive and domestic labor.