Personal control in pain relief during labour


Marion E.Wright School of Health Sciences – Nursing, University of Ulster, Coleraine, Co. Londonderry, BT52 1SA, Northern Ireland. E-mail:


Personal control in pain relief during labour

Personal control is a central feature of women’s involvement in their childbirth experiences. To achieve this control tacit rules and guidelines are applied to define how women and the professionals who care for them should behave. This study investigated the extent to which women exercised control in pain relief during the first stage of labour by comparing (a) the rules which they held prior to childbirth (2–3 cm cervical dilatation) with those which they afterwards felt applied to their labour and (b) the rules held by the women before and after childbirth with those held by the midwives. In a quantitative study using a repeated measures design, a questionnaire was administered to 35 midwives and to 100 women prior to and within 24 hours following their delivery. Consistency of the women’s scores before and after childbirth, indicated by few statistically significant differences, tended to confirm their rules on control of pain relief. Some of the rules were held even more strongly following childbirth. A surprising finding was the even stronger agreement by midwives with some of the rules. There was a definite trend for many of the rules held by the women prior to childbirth to increase following birth towards those of the midwives. This could be the result of the experience of childbirth per se but the possibility that it was contributed to by the influence of the midwives cannot be ruled out and warrants further research. An interesting hierarchy in the rules for compliance with professional care has been highlighted.