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Swimming against the tide: Women's experience of choosing a homebirth in Switzerland

02 November 2015
17 min read
Volume 23 · Issue 11

Abstract

Background:

Choice in childbirth, which also involves choice of place to give birth, is a fundamental right of all women. Despite the availability of health-care options for maternity services, most women living in Switzerland continue to give birth in hospital. This paper explores factors influencing the decision of Swiss women to give birth at home.

Study design:

A descriptive qualitative study was used. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six pregnant women living in Switzerland who were planning a homebirth. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.

Findings:

Previous hospital experience, expectations of homebirth, women's attitudes to birth, and personal and societal influences were reasons women gave for choosing a homebirth. Homebirth offered women more autonomy, less medical intervention, and a more relaxing environment than traditional hospital settings.

Conclusion:

Women in Switzerland who choose homebirth are motivated by the same factors as women elsewhere. The findings from this study suggest a need for personalised maternity care which supports women in their childbirth choices.

There has been much discussion in recent years of the importance of women exercising their right to choose where to give birth (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), 2011; Birthplace in England Collaborative Group, 2011; Snowden et al, 2011; Hadjigeorgiou et al, 2012; Olsen and Clausen, 2012). The European Court of Human Rights has recognised that it is the right of all women to be the ultimate decision-makers regarding the circumstances in which they give birth. However, in many Western societies, women's choices associated with the right to choose place of birth are often framed by sociocultural factors. These include a dominant medical model of maternity care, which underpins the arguments surrounding safety of birth outside of hospital (De Jonge et al, 2009; Wax et al, 2010; Jomeen, 2013; Cheyney et al, 2014). The debates concerning medicalisation and safety of childbirth continue, despite considerable evidence suggesting that choice and control are important factors in promoting positive birth experiences for women (Department of Health (DH), 2004; 2007; Snowden et al, 2011).

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