Engaging with the 'modern birth story' in pregnancy : everydayness, absorption and the 'idle talk' of birth

Kay, Lesley (2017) Engaging with the 'modern birth story' in pregnancy : everydayness, absorption and the 'idle talk' of birth. In: 12th International Normal Labour and Birth Research Conference; 02-04 Oct 2017, Grange Over Sands, U.K.. (Unpublished)


BACKGROUND This study considered how women came to understand birth in the milieu of other women’s stories; it grew from a sense that the way we talk about and portray birth might be significant. PURPOSE/OBJECTIVE To consider how engaging with stories of birth influenced expectations and experiences of childbirth for two generations. Birth stories encompassed personal oral stories as well as media and other representations of contemporary childbirth. METHOD A hermeneutic phenomenological approach was taken; participants were purposively selected and recruited. In phase one 10 primigravid women were interviewed raising questions about whether information gleaned from media/virtual birth story mediums creates meaningful knowledge. In phase two interviews with 10 women pregnant in the 1970s – 1980s were conducted to determine whether women from a different era were more able to translate knowledge into meaning based on the belief that stories were mediated by personal contact and not though virtual technologies. KEY FINDINGS • Stories had a role to play in women's understandings; 'norms' perpetuated the 'drama of birth'. • The 'modern birth story' created and perpetuated fear of childbirth. • Women were overloaded with information amassed in an attempt to manage anxiety, fit the role of informed patient and demonstrate competency as mothers. • The cultural and spiritual significance of birth was missing. • Many felt secure in the 'system' of birth as constructed, portrayed and sustained in stories. DISCUSSION The birth story was constructed through ‘idle talk’ (the taken for granted assumptions of how things are which come into being through language) and took place across a variety of media, as well as through personal stories (Heidegger, 2012). The lifeworld of birth being sustained was one of product and process, with the birth of a healthy baby as the only significant outcome. This thesis revealed that information gleaned from birth stories did not create meaningful knowledge and understanding about birth. IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE This work highlights a need for further research to qualify the relationship between what women see and hear about birth and their expectation and consequent experience of birth. Further it demonstrates that women should be given help and guidance to ‘unpack’ and understand negative stories and portrayals of birth to mitigate the damaging effects of expectant fear. Health professionals need to be instrumental in ensuring that images and stories support women’s confidence in their capacity to birth positively in a range of different circumstances. REFERENCES Heidegger, M. (2012). Being and time (J. McQuarrie, E. Robinson Trans.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

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