Women's perspectives of the stages and phases of labour

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Midwifery, 2013, 29 (1), pp. 10 - 17
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Background: within childbirth there is a common and widely known explanation of labour and birth which describes and defines the birth process as stages and phases. The aim of this research was to determine whether the discourse of labour as stages and phases resonated with women who had experienced spontaneous labour and birth. Method: a critical feminist standpoint methodology was used to explore the perspectives of 18 New Zealand women through in-depth, one to one, interviews. Findings: the participants did not talk about their labour as occurring in stages or phases and often considered this description to be an abstract concept. The current descriptions of labour onset and progression did not appear to resonate with these women or provide sufficient clarity for them to understand how far they had progressed in their labour. For women who had previously laboured there was the ability to make comparisons with their previous experiences and therefore experiential knowledge was privileged over other forms of knowledge. Despite this the discourse of measurement of cervical dilatation was dominant and considered as an authoritative means of determining labour and labour progress. Conclusion and implication for practice: women considered labour to be a continuous process. If women are to be able to make sense of their experience of labour, the maternity sector needs to explore and determine descriptions of labour which resonate more fully with the woman's experience of labour and birth. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
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