Empathy and spiritual care in midwifery practice: contributing to women's enhanced birth experiences

Moloney, Sharon, and Gair, Susan (2015) Empathy and spiritual care in midwifery practice: contributing to women's enhanced birth experiences. Women and Birth, 28 (4). pp. 323-328.

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Background: Research has identified empathy as a crucial ingredient in effective practice for health professionals, including midwifery. Equally, the role of spirituality has been recognised as enhancing the quality of the birth experience through the care, compassion and presence of the midwife. Yet literature discussing birthing women's lived experiences of caregiver empathy and spiritual care appears uncommon.

Aim: The aim of this article is to highlight women's stories about midwives' empathy and spiritual care or lack thereof during birth, in order to contribute to the promotion of more empathic, spiritually aware midwifery practice.

Methods: Ten interviews and seven focus groups were conducted with forty-eight women, including mothers, midwives and staff from a women's service. A secondary analysis of the data was conducted examining women's descriptions and reflections on midwives' levels of empathy and spiritual care.

Findings: When midwives' empathy and spiritual care were evident, women's birth experiences appeared enhanced, providing a solid foundation for confident mothering. Conversely, participants appeared to link a lack of caregiver empathy, compassion or spiritual care with more enduring consequences, birth trauma and difficulty bonding with their babies.

Conclusion: Midwives' empathy and spiritual care can play a key role in creating positive birth and mothering experiences. More research into the role of empathy and spiritual care in enhancing midwifery practice in all birth settings is recommended, as is the increased embeddedness of empathic regard and the notion of 'birth as sacred' into midwifery curricula.

Item ID: 41203
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1878-1799
Keywords: empathy, spirituality, midwifery, birth trauma, mothers
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Funders: Australian Postgraduate Research Award (JCU)
Date Deposited: 11 Nov 2015 02:08
FoR Codes: 11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1110 Nursing > 111006 Midwifery @ 40%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1607 Social Work > 160701 Clinical Social Work Practice @ 60%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9299 Other Health > 929999 Health not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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