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Risk perception and choice of place of birth in women with high risk pregnancies: A qualitative study

Lee, S., Ayers, S. & Holden, D. (2016). Risk perception and choice of place of birth in women with high risk pregnancies: A qualitative study. Midwifery, 38, pp. 49-54. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2016.03.008


Objective: To examine the perception of risk among a group of women with high risk pregnancies who were either planning to give birth in hospital, or at home despite medical advice to the contrary. The intention was to consider differences and similarities between the groups to examine how perception of risk relates to choice of place of birth.

Design: Qualitative study using semi-structured interviews. Setting Maternity department in a hospital in South East England. Participants Twenty-six women with high risk pregnancies, at least 32 weeks pregnant. Half were planning hospital births and half homebirths.

Measurements and findings: Semi-structured interviews to investigate women's understanding and assessment of risk. Results were analysed using thematic analysis. Five themes emerged: understanding of situation; judgement of risk; reassuring factors; impact of risk; and coping with risk. Women from both groups had some understanding of the implications of their medical/obstetric conditions. They displayed concerns about their babies' wellbeing. Women planning homebirths assessed their risks as lower and expressed less concerns than women planning hospital births. Women planning hospital births more frequently described following professional advice.

Key conclusions: Risk perception is individual and subjective. Women with high risk pregnancies who plan to give birth at home perceive risk differently to women who plan hospital births.

Implications for practice: Healthcare professionals working with women with high risk pregnancies should be aware of the potential for differences in definitions and perceptions of risk within this group.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2016, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
Publisher Keywords: High risk pregnancy, Risk perception, Homebirth, Communication
Subjects: R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
Departments: School of Health Sciences > Midwifery & Radiography
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