The majority of Australian women experience childbirth within a model of care that exerts a controlling influence over childbirth itself, the women and the midwives. This is demonstrated by the research into control and childbirth, and by women's published birth stories. Additionally, the research literature shows a relationship between how women feel about themselves and satisfaction with the birth experience as well as an association between the use of medical intervention and self-esteem.
This research has been designed to gain a beginning understanding of the way that the various features of medicalised and natural birth experiences affect the woman's sense of self. This qualitative study uses feminist constructivism as the framework and a personal narrative design. Probing interviews were undertaken with six women; half experienced medicalised childbirth and half experienced natural childbirth in the midwifery model of partnership. Validation was gained during telephone interviews and analysis was thematic.
Results indicate that the features of the midwifery partnership enhance women's sense of self. These features are identified as the midwife being there, with the woman, effectively communicating in a trusting relationship that empowers self-confidence and protects the personal birthing space. These external features then facilitate the woman's positive inner experience of herself during labour. This experience is identified as occurring through a self-empathic process where the woman progressively relinquishes mind control, releases her body and adapts to the challenges of labour enabling her to balance a sense of self with a focus on her baby. The woman's sense of self subsequent to childbirth is demonstrated as enhanced by her expressions of self-appreciation, growth in bodily understanding, increased self-confidence and affirmations of womanliness. This supports the thesis that women who experience a midwifery partnership during childbirth grow in self-awareness and self-confidence to a greater degree than those experiencing the medical model of care.
Parratt, JA 2000, 'Trusting enough to be out of control the impact of childbirth experiences on women's sense of self', Masters thesis University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Qld.