• midwives;
  • stress;
  • Goldberg;
  • exploratory;
  • labour ward;
  • perceptions;
  • occupational health;
  • communication

This exploratory study set out to examine labour ward midwives’ perceptions of stress. It utilized a combination of two self-report questionnaires, one devised by McGrath et al. and the GHQ12. Additional qualitative data were collected by asking midwives to produce narratives about recent stressful events. A convenience sample of the 43 midwives formed the study population and a response rate of 77% was achieved. Quantitative data were analysed using descriptive statistics and qualitative narratives were explored for content analysis. Midwives in this study demonstrated their awareness of stress in their working and personal lives and many took active steps to redress the negative effects with exercise, hobbies and talking with colleagues. However, the study revealed that 78% of the midwives indicated that having insufficient time to perform their duties was very stressful, paralleled by their perceived inability to influence work-based decisions. The study revealed that both medical and midwifery colleagues frustrated their endeavours to change an unsatisfactory condition. The GHQ12 revealed 30% of the midwives had scores above the threshold level of 2 indicating psychiatric morbidity and this is of major concern. The narratives revealed that lack of communication between the professionals about decision making was a major source of stress and as a result of this study efforts to improve multidisciplinary communication through the development of journal clubs and planned social activities is under consideration by the unit. Overall, the findings from this study highlight stress as a potential, occupational health problem in the working lives of some labour ward midwives.