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The Role of Maternity Care Providers in Promoting Shared Decision Making Regarding Birthing Positions During the Second Stage of Labor


  • Marianne J. Nieuwenhuijze RM, MPH,

  • Lisa Kane Low CNM, PhD,

    Corresponding author
    • Address correspondence to Lisa Kane Low, CNM, PhD, School of Nursing and Department of Women's Studies, University of Michigan, 400 North Ingalls, Suite 3320, University of Michigan School of Nursing, Ann Arbor, MI, 48109. E-mail:

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  • Irene Korstjens PhD,

  • Toine Lagro-Janssen MD, PhD



Through the use of a variety of birthing positions during the second stage of labor, a woman can increase progress, improve outcomes, and have a positive birth experience. The role that a maternity care provider has in determining which position a woman uses during the second stage of labor has not been thoroughly explored. The purpose of this qualitative investigation was to explore how maternity care providers communicate with women during the second stage of labor regarding birthing position.


A literature-informed framework was developed to conduct a process of deductive content analysis of communication patterns between nulliparous women and their maternity care providers during the second stage of labor. Literature discussing shared decision making, control, and predictors of positive birth experiences were reviewed to develop a coding framework. The framework included the following categories: listening to women, encouragement, information, offering choices, and style of support. Forty-one audiotapes of women and their maternity care providers during the second stage of labor were transcribed verbatim and analyzed.


Themes identified in the transcripts included all those in the analytic framework, plus 2 added categories of communication: empathy and interaction. Maternity care providers in this study enabled women to select various birthing positions using a dynamic process that moved between open, informative approaches and more closed, directive approaches, depending on the woman's needs and clinical condition. As clinical conditions unfolded, women became more actively involved in shared decision making regarding birthing positions, and maternity care providers found the right balance between being responsive to the woman's questions or directives.


Enabling shared decision making during birth is not a linear process using a single approach; it is dynamic process that requires a variety of approaches. Maternity care providers can support a woman to use different birthing positions during the second stage of labor by employing a flexible style that incorporates clinical assessment and the woman's responses.