Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) Honours

School

School of Psychology and Social Science

Faculty

Health, Engineering and Science

First Advisor

Dr Bronwyn Harman

Abstract

Childbirth is an ordeal of nature. It is an experience that elicits a range of emotions for the labouring woman; recognition of which has highlighted women’s needs for psychological support during the birth process. Research has shown that a mother’s perception of a positive birth is influenced by how supported she feels throughout her experience. In Australia it is common practice for the labouring woman’s partner to be her main support person; however research into women’s experiences of this phenomenon is scarce. This research aimed to explore the lived experiences of women in this context, asking the question “what meaning do women ascribe to their experiences of their partners presence in childbirth?” Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight Western Australian women who had given birth in their partner’s presence. Using an interpretative phenomenological approach, five main themes were identified: an essential presence; psychological support; ‘on my side’; education and preparation; and strengthened relationship. It was found that the partners offered a unique approach to supporting the women, guided by the history they had together. The women felt it was important for their partner to be present for a range of reasons and his support was highly valued. It was also found that supporting fathers in their childbirth experience is fundamental to supporting mothers during childbirth. Understanding women’s experiences in this context provides a vital perspective on the ways in which partners can best engage in the childbirth experience and provide support in order to enhance birth outcomes. Further research is required to assess gaps in care for women giving birth, and the men supporting them, to improve service provision in this area.

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