A qualitative study of factors that influence midwives’ practice in relation to low-risk women's oral intake in labour in Australia

Mika Tadaumi, Linda Sweet, Kristen Graham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Restriction of food and fluids during labour increases women's discomfort, anxiety and stress which are associated with obstruction of the normal process of labour. Whilst research evidence and clinical guidelines recommend that normal uncomplicated labouring women should not be limited in their oral intake during labour, some midwives continue to restrict or discourage women's oral intake. To promote best practice, it is important to understand the influencing factors which affect midwives’ decision-making processes. Objective: This study aimed to investigate the influences that affect midwifery practice regarding oral food and fluid intake for low-risk labouring women. Design: An interpretive descriptive approach employed 12 semi-structured interviews with registered midwives with current labour and birthing experience in Australia. Data was analysed using thematic analysis. Findings: Three themes were identified: midwives’ knowledge and beliefs; work environment and women's expectations of care. Midwives’ practice was affected by their knowledge and values developed from professional and personal experiences of labour, their context of practice and work environment, the clinical guidelines, policies and obstetric control, and women's choice and comfort. Conclusion: This study indicates that midwives’ decision-making in relation to women's oral nutrition during labour is multifaceted and influenced by complicated environments, models of care, and power relations between doctors and midwives, more so than clinical guidelines. It is important for midwives to be aware of factors negatively influencing their decision-making processes to enable autonomy and empowerment in the provision of evidence-based care of labouring women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e455-e463
Number of pages9
JournalWomen and Birth
Issue number5
Early online date30 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020


  • Decision making
  • Labour care
  • Midwifery
  • Nutrition
  • Oral intake


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