A hero's tale of childbirth: An interpretive phenomenological study of traumatic and positive childbirth

Thomson, Gillian Margaret (2007) A hero's tale of childbirth: An interpretive phenomenological study of traumatic and positive childbirth. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Childbirth is an emotional and physical experience, which may have permanent or longterm positive or negative consequences. Key predictive factors of traumatic and positive childbirth have been previously identified. Criticisms however have been levied towards the pre-dominantly quantitative-based, pathological focus of the literature. Few empirical studies have examined the positive nature of childbirth. Research has also focused on isolated aspects of the pre, intra and post-partum period, as opposed to women's global perceptions. The need to consult with women who have endured traumatic and non-traumatic childbirth and to identify the complex interplay of factors associated with these events has been highlighted in the literature. This research comprises an interpretive phenomenological study. By recruiting and interviewing women who had experienced a self-defined traumatic and positive birth, the research aimed to generate a deeper understanding of the meanings and lived experiences of diverse childbirth events. A further aim was to explore how women
achieved a subsequent positive birth following a traumatic episode, as well as the impact of this experience on maternal wellbeing. Through purposive sampling methods, a total of fourteen women were engaged over two recruitment phases. In phase one an interview was held with ten women who had already experienced a self-defined traumatic and positive birth. In phase two, four vomen were recruited on a longitudinal basis; interviews were held after a traumatic (interview 1) and subsequent birth (interview 2). In addition, all women (across both phases) were also involved in a final interpretation meeting. Thirty-two interviews were held in total. Data were collected through in-depth interviews. Data analysis was undertaken through an interpretive framework based on Heideggerian and Gadamerian hermeneutics. The findings present the women's childbearing journey of tragedy and joy through seven interpretive themes. A theoretical framework has re-conceptualised the women's birth narratives as a hero's tale. This represents a heroic journey of adversity, trials, courage,
determination and triumph. A unique psychosocial model has been synthesised by integrating aspects of the theories of Carl Jung (1968, 1989, 2006), Abraham Maslow (1962, 1970a&b) and Martin Heidegger (1962, 1976, 1977). This model has provided a holistic conceptual framework of women's childbirth experiences. The framework explores the psychosocial motivators and influences on women's childbirth experiences. It emphasises the importance of socio-contextual factors to determine a woman's growth potential during childbirth; as well as how growth-inhibiting (traumatic birth) and growth-enhancing (joyful birth) experiences are internalised by women. This model offers the basis through which a whole systems salutogenic orientation to maternity care can be achieved. Original insights into the transformative, cathartic and self-validating nature of a redemptive birth are also presented. The practical implications of these findings and suggestions for future research have been offered.

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