Unique and proforma birth plans: a qualitative exploration of midwives׳ experiences

Joanne V. Welsh (Lead / Corresponding author), Andrew G. Symon (Lead / Corresponding author)

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    20 Citations (Scopus)



    birth plans detailing a woman?s preferences for intrapartum care are a common feature in British maternity units, and are a means of encouraging the implementation of choice. Proforma versions may be incorporated routinely in antenatal case notes, or the woman may devise her own unique birth plan. Although women?s views of birth plans have been explored, the views of midwives have not to date been evaluated. The growth of midwife-led units in the UK has highlighted different philosophies of care, some of which can be reflected in the different types of birth plan. Given the increasingly diverse nature of UK midwifery workplaces we set out to explore and compare the experience of midwives working in midwife-led and obstetric-led settings in relation to unique and proforma birth plans.

    qualitative study using focus groups of midwives in a midwife-led unit (MLU; n=5) and obstetric-led unit (OLU; n=4) in the East of England. We used an interpretative phenomenological analytical approach.

    three main themes arose from the data. Firstly, the term ‘birth plan’ can be misleading, and was criticised for encouraging the belief that birth can be ‘planned’. In addition, midwives claimed that ‘unique’ birth plans, especially those influenced by some consumer advocacy groups, are becoming standardised in their rejection of policies and procedures and requests for intervention-free birth. Secondly, birth plans were a source of irritation for midwives in both groups, although the cause of the irritation differed between groups. Finally, it was found that midwives in both groups felt that birth plans put pressure on them, although again, the source of the pressure, and therefore the way in which midwives reacted to this pressure, differed between groups.

    the term ‘birth plan’ can be misleading and create false expectations. If ‘unique’ birth plans are becoming ‘standardised’ in the sense that they routinely request the same things, they are little different to proforma birth plans. Some midwives perceive pressure both from women and the wider multidisciplinary team as a result of birth plans, a perception that causes some irritation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)885-891
    Number of pages7
    Issue number7
    Early online date11 Mar 2014
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014


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