Women’s preferences for childbirth experiences in the republic of ireland; a mixed methods study
Begley, Cecily M.
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Larkin, Patricia; Begley, Cecily M. Devane, Declan (2017). Women’s preferences for childbirth experiences in the republic of ireland; a mixed methods study. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 17 ,
Background: How women experience childbirth is acknowledged as critical to the postnatal wellbeing of mother and baby. However there is a knowledge deficit in identifying the important elements of these experiences in order to enhance care. This study elicits women's preferences for the most important elements of their childbirth experiences. Methods: A mixed methods design was used. An initial qualitative phase (reported previously) was followed by a second quantitative one using a discrete choice experiment (DCE), which is reported on here. Participants who had experienced labour, were over 18 and had a healthy baby were recruited from four randomly selected and one pilot hospital in the Republic of Ireland. Data were collected by means of a DCE survey instrument. Questions were piloted, refined, and then arranged in eight pair-wise scenarios. Women identified their preferences by choosing one scenario over another. Nine hundred and five women were sent the DCE three months after childbirth, with a response rate of 59.3% (N = 531). Results: Women clearly identified priorities for their childbirth experiences as: the availability of pain relief, partnership with the midwife, and individualised care being the most important attributes. In the context of other choices, women rated decision-making, presence of a consultant, and interventions as less important elements. Comments from open questions provided contextual information about their choices. Conclusions: Most women did not want to be typified as wanting the dichotomy of 'all natural' or 'all technology' births but wanted 'the best of both worlds'. The results suggest that availability of pain relief was the most important element of women's childbirth experiences, and superseded all other elements including partnership with the midwife which was the second most important attribute. The preferences identified might reflect the busy medicalised hospital environments, in which the vast majority of women had given birth, and may differ in settings such as midwifery led care or home births.