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Keywords:

  • coping strategies;
  • midwifery;
  • qualitative research;
  • stressful childbirth situations;
  • supervision

Introduction: This study aimed to explore clinical life-threatening childbirth situations, which midwives perceive as extremely stressful, and to identify how midwives cope with those experiences.

Methods: Participants were 18 midwives employed in 6 labor and delivery units in Israeli hospitals. Individual semistructured, in-depth interviews were conducted wherein participants were asked to describe an extremely stressful situation that they had experienced, their significant feelings associated with the event, their coping strategies, and their support systems.

Results: Thematic content analysis revealed 2 themes, with each consisting of 4 categories. The first theme focused on reactions to stressful childbirth situations and their impact on midwives. Categories were: functioning professionally in an unexpected reality, emotional reactions, physical reactions, and long-term effects. The second theme related to coping with stressful situations, focusing on coping difficulties, and suggestions for change. Categories were: midwives’ coping difficulties, their colleagues’ reactions, their feelings about supervisory staff support, and their suggestions for meeting expressed needs.

Discussion: Stressful childbirth situations can have a long-term impact on midwives’ professional and personal identities. Midwives need to feel supported and valued in order to deal with emotional stress. Incorporating clinical supervision by experienced midwives can serve as a supportive framework for other midwives.