Woman-centred care during pregnancy and birth in Ireland: Thematic analysis of women's and clinicians' experiences

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Background: Recent policy and service provision recommends a woman-centred approach to maternity care. Midwife-led models of care are seen as one important strategy for enhancing women's choice; a core element of woman-centred care. In the Republic of Ireland, an obstetric consultant-led, midwife-managed service model currently predominates and there is limited exploration of the concept of women centred care from the perspectives of those directly involved; that is, women, midwives, general practitioners and obstetricians. This study considers women's and clinicians' views, experiences and perspectives of woman-centred maternity care in Ireland. Methods: A descriptive qualitative design. Participants (n = 31) were purposively sampled from two geographically distinct maternity units. Interviews were face-to-face or over the telephone, one-to-one or focus groups. A thematic analysis of the interview data was performed. Results: Five major themes representing women's and clinicians' views, experiences and perspectives of women-centred care emerged from the data. These were Protecting Normality, Education and Decision Making, Continuity, Empowerment for Women-Centred Care and Building Capacity for Women-Centred Care. Within these major themes, sub-themes emerged that reflect key elements of women-centred care. These were respect, partnership in decision making, information sharing, educational impact, continuity of service, staff continuity and availability, genuine choice, promoting women's autonomy, individualized care, staff competency and practice organization. Conclusion: Women centred-care, as perceived by participants in this study, is not routinely provided in Ireland and women subscribe to the dominant culture that views safety as paramount. Women-centred care can best be facilitated through continuity of carer and in particular through midwife led models of care; however, there is potential to provide women-centred care within existing labour wards in terms of consistency of care, education of women, common approaches to care across professions and women's choice. To achieve this, however, future research is required to better understand the role of midwife-led care within existing labour ward settings. While a positive view of women-centred care was found; there is still a difference in approach and imbalance of power between the professions. More research is required to consider how these differences impact care provision and how they might be overcome.




Hunter, A., Devane, D., Houghton, C., Grealish, A., Tully, A., & Smith, V. (2017). Woman-centred care during pregnancy and birth in Ireland: Thematic analysis of women’s and clinicians’ experiences. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 17(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-017-1521-3

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