Women's Perceptions of Prenatal Influences on Maternal Confidence for Physiologic Birth

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Introduction: A physiologic approach to labor and birth is preferred for most women. The United States spends more on birth than any other country. Cesarean rates are currently 32%, and approximately 23% of women with a singleton pregnancy experience induction or augmentation of labor. Most physiologic birth research has focused on care during labor and birth. The purpose of this study was to describe women's perceptions of the care processes, support, and information received during pregnancy that helped them feel confident for physiologic labor and birth. Methods: Using a qualitative descriptive design with 2 phases, women were recruited from an urban area and a smaller city in Minnesota. Phase 1 included focus groups with women who had given birth within the previous 6 months. They participated in a discussion about experiences that helped them feel confident for labor and birth. In Phase 2, women who had a physiologic birth, which was defined as term pregnancy, spontaneous labor, no epidural analgesia, and vaginal birth, participated in individual interviews. Focus group and individual interview recordings were transcribed and analyzed using Glaser's constant comparative approach. Results: Thirty-eight women participated in 9 focus groups. Seventeen women had a physiologic birth; 14 participated in individual interviews. Themes derived from the analysis included confidence in the face of uncertainty, belief in the normalcy of birth and the body's ability to birth, research on my own, supportive care partnership, on the same page, and sources of information and support. Discussion: Women who experienced physiologic birth believed that this was possible and expected. They sought information, including searching on their own, from maternity care providers and a broader support system. Relationships with their maternity care providers were important. Prenatal care focused on women's strengths and abilities, while also monitoring pregnancy health and safety, may help reduce unnecessary interventions, improve outcomes, and reduce costs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Midwifery and Women's Health
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018


  • confidence
  • midwifery
  • physiologic birth
  • prenatal care


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