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Supporting an ethnic minority woman's choice for pain relief in labour: A reflection

02 June 2016
7 min read
Volume 24 · Issue 5


Despite professional expectations for midwives to provide care to women that is founded in equality and recognises diversity (Nursing and Midwifery Council, 2015), women from ethnic minority populations consistently suggest that they are not heard (Briscoe and Lavender, 2009; Tobin et al, 2014). This article reflects on a situation where a Portuguese woman with limited English-speaking ability was denied access to epidural anaesthesia as the midwife felt that the woman could not give valid consent to the procedure without the presence of an interpreter. The midwife's role in this situation is reflected on, and implications for midwifery practice identified.

Communication is seldom thought of as a high-priority instrument in improving maternal outcomes; however, when it is timely, fitting to the situation and meets the individual needs of the woman and the health-care team, it can make a significant difference (Bick, 2010). Effective communication between women and health professionals is fundamental to the provision of safe, optimised care (Hayes et al, 2011). It is the origin of best practice, not only in midwifery but in all disciplines (Price, 2013). When providing individualised, holistic care to women, it is imperative to consider their cultural identity and needs (McCarthy et al, 2013). Inadequate or poorly organised maternity services, complicated by a lack of education in cultural understanding and inconsistent access to interpreter services, often have a detrimental effect on care provision (Tobin et al, 2014).

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