A mixed-method study to investigate the relationship between the number of social support people present during labour, women’s perceptions and birth outcomes

Dunne, Carmel Lynne (2012) A mixed-method study to investigate the relationship between the number of social support people present during labour, women’s perceptions and birth outcomes. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract

The birth of a baby is a significant event for women and their families, with the event being influenced by the prevailing social and cultural context. Historically, women throughout the world have given birth at home assisted by other women who helped them cope with the stress of labour and birth. In the middle of the twentieth century, the togetherness, caring and support that were provided within the social and cultural context of childbirth began to change; women in most developed countries, and to some extent in developing countries, laboured and gave birth in institutions that isolated them from the support of family and friends. This practice is referred to as the medical model of childbirth and, over time, birthing within this model has come to be viewed by women as a dehumanising experience. In an attempt to secure a more supportive experience, women began to demand the presence of a supportive companion; namely their partner. This event became the catalyst for a number of studies focusing on different types of support providers and their contribution to the phenomenon of social support during labour. More recently, it has become a common practice for some women to be supported during labour by a number of people from their social network. However, research on the influence of such supportive people on women’s experience of labour and birth and on birth outcomes is scarce.

The aim of this study is to examine the influence of various support arrangements from a woman’s family and social network on her experience of labour and birth and on birth outcomes. The mixed-method study was conducted to answer three research questions:

  1. Do women with more than one support person present during labour and birth have similar perceptions and experiences of support compared to women with one support person?

  2. Do women with more than one support person present during labour and birth have similar birth outcomes compared to women with one support person?

  3. Do women with different types of support providers during labour and birth have similar birth outcomes? Methods Phase one of this study developed, pilot tested and administered a newly developed instrument designed to measure women’s perceptions of supportive behaviours provided during labour. Specific birth outcome data were extracted from the medical records. Phase two consisted of in-depth interviews with a sample of women who had completed the survey.

Results:

The results identified a statistically significant relationship between women’s perceptions of social support and the number of support providers: women supported by one person only rated the supportive behaviours of that person more highly compared to women who were supported by a number of people. The results also identified that women supported by one person used less analgesia. An additional qualitative finding was that some women sacrificed the support of female relatives at the request of their partners.

Conclusion:

By using a mixed-method approach, this study found that women were selective in their choice of support providers, as they chose individuals with whom they had an enduring affectionate attachment. Women place more emphasis on a support person’s ability to fulfil their attachment needs of close proximity and a sense of security and safety, rather than their ability to provide the expected functional supportive behaviours.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 52681
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Gardner, Glenn & Anderson, Debra
Keywords: attachment figures, birth companions, childbirth, multiple support people, social support
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Nursing
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 23 Jul 2012 06:58
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2015 02:14

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