Women's Perceptions of Midwifery Care: A Longitudinal Study to Shape Curriculum Development


  • Diane M Fraser PhD, MPhil, BEd, MTD, RM, RN

    1. Diane Fraser is Senior Lecturer and Head of the Academic Division of Midwifery in the School of Human Development at the University of Nottingham, England.
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Address correspondence to Dr. Diane Fraser, Academic Division of Midwifery, A Floor, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Queen's Medical Center, Nottingham NG7 2UH, United Kingdom.


Background: Health and education services are increasingly expected to focus on the consumer. The perceptions of childbearing women should be incorporated into midwifery curricula, but often they are given minimal attention or not sought for this purpose. This study was designed to enable the views and experiences of local women to influence curriculum development in a large university in England. Methods: A descriptive, longitudinal, qualitative study was conducted using semistructured and unstructured interviews with women, and data from their maternity records. Forty-one pregnant women were recruited and interviewed during pregnancy, in the early postpartum period in hospital, and in their homes 2 to 3 weeks after the birth. Results: Themes were clustered into three categories: the characteristics and qualities of the caregivers, the individualized nature of care, and the clinical competence of the caregivers. Continuity of caregiver was desired but accepted as probably unrealistic by many. Developing a “special” trusting relationship with a female midwife was perceived as essential to promoting a positive childbirth experience. Clinical competence was expected and largely experienced. Negative feelings related to individual caregivers more than the type of care given. Conclusions: Most women had positive experiences, finding midwives and doctors with good knowledge, interpersonal skills, and abilities. Examples of poor communication skills and interprofessional conflict indicated a need to give priority to developing and assessing students' interpersonal skills. Evidence of interprofessional conflict acted as the catalyst to merge midwifery with the department of obstetrics in the university to enhance interprofessional learning.