Spirituality and childbirth : an international virtual co-operative inquiry

Crowther, Susan A., Hall, Jenny, Balabanoff, Doreen, Baranowska, Barbara, Kay, Lesley, Menage, Diane and Fry, Jane (2021) Spirituality and childbirth : an international virtual co-operative inquiry. Women and Birth, 34(2), e135-e145. ISSN (print) 1871-5192


Problem: Medicalised maternity systems do not address spirituality as an aspect of childbirth and its practices of care. Neglecting the spiritual nature of childbirth may negatively affect psychological, emotional and physical well-being. Background: While there is growing interest in the spiritual side of childbirth there is a paucity of literature on the topic, and hence a lack of understanding generally about how to attend to women’s needs for emotional and spiritual support in childbirth. Aim: To collaboratively and through consensus explore ways that spirituality could be honoured in 21st Century maternity care. Methods: An online co-operative inquiry. Starting with a scoping exercise (N=17) nine co-inquirers continued to Phase One using online discussion boards and seven co-inquirers continued to Phase Two and Three. Co-inquirers were involved in international group work and individual reflective and transformational processes throughout. Findings: Four reflective themes emerged: ‘meaning and sense-making’; ‘birth culture’; ‘embodied relationships and intuition’; and ‘space/place/time’. ‘Spiritual midwifing’ was an overarching theme. There were eight areas of individual transformation and actions concerning spirituality and birth: 1) disseminating inquiry findings; 2) motivating conversations and new ways of thinking; 3) remembering interconnectedness across time and spaces; 4) transforming relationships; 5) transforming practice; 6) generating reflexivity; 7) inspiring self and others to change, and 8) inspiring creativity. Conclusion: Spiritual awareness around birth experience emerges through relationships and is affected by the spatial environment. Spiritual midwifing is a relational approach to birth care that recognises and honours the existential significance and meaningfulness of childbirth.

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