A Phenomenological Analysis of Women's Choices, Expectations and Experiences when Intending to Give Birth in a Birth Centre

  • Elizabeth Edwards

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The aim of this study was to explore the factors that influenced women to choose care in a birth centre in the South Wales Valleys, and to ascertain their expectations and experiences of care in the antenatal period and during labour.

    The possibility of complications arising during normal pregnancy is a well-known phenomenon, leading to a woman's care being transferred from a midwife to an obstetrician. For women intending to give birth in the birth centre, this also meant having care transferred to the District General Hospital eight miles distant.

    Experiences of those women who had care transferred were of a particular interest. Even though transfer is a common occurrence, little research exploring the effects of this from the woman's perspective has been carried out.

    The study was qualitative, using thematic analysis based on Gadamerian phenomenological principles. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with a purposeful sample of twenty women who described their antenatal experiences. Five of the women were later transferred from midwifery-led to obstetric-led care in the obstetric unit, with three of the transfers occurring during labour. A second interview was held with these five women to explore their experiences further.

    Key findings indicate that women choose the birth centre for its friendly, welcoming environment and woman-centred midwifery care. The influence and importance of family around the time of birth was a notable feature. Women transferred in labour subsequently experienced a different model of care, which for one woman meant that she remained empowered to make choices and decisions about her labour, whilst two other women felt some aspects of care to be mechanistic and impersonal.

    Recommendations from the study include further, larger scale research into women's experiences of transfer. Areas where specific guidance and education may be beneficial are suggested, to give a better understanding of those aspects of transfer that might affect women.
    Date of AwardFeb 2009
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorAnne-Marie Coll (Supervisor) & Rachel Iredale (Supervisor)


    • Childbirth
    • Maternal health services

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