This study examined the subjective needs of labouring patients. A convenience sample of 80 postpartum patients was interviewed. They described the nursing care they had received, indicated the most helpful nursing measure received, and rated their satisfaction with their nursing care. These answers were categorized into types of nursing care. These were supportive care nursing, physical care nursing, medications and combinations of these three, χ2 calculations done between these categories and satisfaction scores indicated a significant relationship between the type of care a patient received and her satisfaction scores. Patients found combined care very satisfying, but supportive care was the decisive factor in the way patients viewed their nursing care. The most frequently mentioned element in supportive care was the ability of the nurse to be a sustaining presence. The nurse's ability to assess and to meet the patient's need or non-need for her presence was a major factor in patient satisfaction with nursing care in this sample. The relationship between congruency (agreement between time wanted and time spent by the nurse at the bedside) and satisfaction scores was highly significant. Thus the ability to recognize and respond to the patient's need or non-need for her presence was a crucial factor in patient satisfaction and in the way in which a nurse allocated her time. The relationships between numbers of nurses caring for a patient, parity, length of labour, presence of visitors, worries about the baby and patient satisfaction scores were examined. All were non-significant. However numbers of nurses caring for a pacient was defined as a contributing factor to the delivery of supportive care nursing. More nurses contributed to more supportive care nursing being given, but was not the major factor in the delivery of supportive care nursing. Finally it was shown that the administration of syntocinon to patients in this sample decreased patient satisfaction with nursing care. Implications and possible reasons for these results are discussed.