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Exploring the ‘good’ birth: What is it and why does it matter?

02 December 2014
15 min read
Volume 22 · Issue 12

Abstract

This article explores the relationship between childbirth and mothers' psychosocial experience of motherhood, through the lens of the ‘good’ birth. Case histories of eight mothers were selected and written up from research on birthing and risk in an East London locality; these were mothers who had reported an experience of a ‘good’ or ‘great’ birth (Simkin, 2006). The aim was to see what they had in common. Three core themes were identified. Firstly, whether as a consequence or a cause of their birthing experience, and most likely both, the mothers were identified as having strong personalities or ‘ego's’. Secondly, they had all experienced respectful care. Thirdly, they had experienced a transition to motherhood (Oakley, 1980) that was unambiguous and lacking in tension. Not all of these women had ‘natural’ births. The conclusion discusses the implications of this for further research and the way childbirth is managed in the UK and beyond.

A core assumption of this article is that there is a need to investigate the relationship between a woman's experience of childbirth and her experience of motherhood. Another assumption is that those involved in the medical management of childbirth—midwives, obstetricians, doulas and so on—are interested in the longer term outcomes for women who give birth. There is an important need, it is argued, to connect the somewhat diverse fields of midwifery, medicine, and the psychosocial, to understand childbirth as a physical, psychological and emotional process, and one that holds sociocultural implications (van Teijlingen, 2005; Reiger and Dempsy, 2006); for example, the emotional and psychological health of the mother after giving birth (Oakley, 1980; Talbot 2014a; 2014b), her sense of adjustment to motherhood (Thomson et al, 2011), and child development (Emerson, 2001).

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