Caring for women making unconventional birth choices: A meta-ethnography exploring the views, attitudes, and experiences of midwives

Feeley, Claire Lauren orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-8013-0352, Thomson, Gillian orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-3392-8182 and Downe, Soo orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-2848-2550 (2019) Caring for women making unconventional birth choices: A meta-ethnography exploring the views, attitudes, and experiences of midwives. Midwifery, 72 . pp. 50-59. ISSN 0266-6138

[thumbnail of Author Accepted Manuscript]
PDF (Author Accepted Manuscript) - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.


Official URL:


Introduction: Women can face opposition when exerting autonomous decision-making regarding their birth choices, particularly when the decisions involve going against medical advice and/or outside of national guidelines. Termed ‘unconventional birth choices’, some research has explored women’s reasons and experiences of making such choices, but less is known about the midwives caring for them.
Objectives: To synthesize existing qualitative literature on the views, attitudes, and experiences of midwives caring for women who make unconventional birth choices.
Methods: A systematic search and meta-ethnography informed by Noblit and Hare and Schutz was undertaken. Eight databases were searched using predetermined search terms, alongside author, reference, citation chasing, and hand searching. Searches were conducted in July 2016 and updated in October 2017. Qualitative studies published since 1993 in English were included. Included studies were subjected to quality appraisal, conducted independently by two reviewers. Analysis was informed by the interpretative meta-ethnography methods.
Main results: Five studies met the inclusion criteria. Eight subthemes emerged. These resulted in three higher level interpretative themes emerged: perceptions of women’s decision making, conflicting tensions as caregivers, ways of working with-woman.
Conclusions: Midwives can play a pivotal role in ensuring that respectful maternity care includes supporting women in their birthing decisions. Whilst limited research has been undertaken in this area, available insights suggest that midwives’ views in this area are situated along a spectrum from ‘willingly facilitative’ to ‘reluctantly accepting’. Views were influenced by context, as well as prior philosophies and values. While further research is needed, this study offers insights into the challenges women can face in seeking unconventional birth choices if they require support from midwives to do so.

Repository Staff Only: item control page