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The challenge of conducting a waterbirth randomised controlled trial

Woodward, Joanne Lois (2012)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Waterbirths have been available in the United Kingdom as a method of pain relief for childbirth for over two decades but the neonatal safety of birth in water remains unevaluated. Opponents of a waterbirth randomised controlled trial state randomisation would undermine women’s childbirth experience. In addition, little is known about midwives’ attitudes to waterbirths. This thesis addresses some of the lack of evidence by reporting the findings of two studies which had three aims: to investigate the feasibility of a waterbirth RCT to assess the effects of a waterbirth on the neonate, to explore women’s thoughts about participation and whether randomisation affects women’s satisfaction with their childbirth experience and to assess midwives’ attitudes to waterbirths.
The first study involved a RCT with a ‘preference arm’. Eighty women were recruited: 60 in the RCT and 20 in the ‘preference arm’. Women were asked to complete questionnaires to assess their expectations for, and satisfaction with, their childbirth experience: at recruitment, after the birth and 6 weeks after the birth. Women in the randomised arm indicated willingness to partake but questioned midwives’ commitment to offering waterbirths.
A Q Methodology study was undertaken to identify factors which influence midwives’ (n=31) attitudes towards waterbirths. Four factors were identified: Motivation, Risk Assessment, Confidence, Safety.
Conclusion: It is feasible to organise a larger RCT to assess neonatal safety and women would be supportive. Strategies would be required to ensure midwives are confident and supportive of the waterbirth service.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Kelly, Sue and Clifford, Collette and Hicks, Carolyn
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Medical & Dental Sciences
Department:School of Health and Population Sciences, Nursing and Physiotherapy
Subjects:RA Public aspects of medicine
RG Gynecology and obstetrics
RT Nursing
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:3392
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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