‘They follow the wants and needs of an institution’: Midwives’ views of water immersion

Megan Cooper, Helen McCutcheon, Jane Warland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background: A midwife's ability to fully support women's autonomy and self-determination with respect to midwifery care is often challenging. This is particularly true of water immersion for labour and birth. However, the woman's agency over what happens to her body and that of her unborn baby should be key considerations for maternity care provision. Objectives: A three phased mixed-methods study was undertaken to examine how water immersion policies and guidelines are informed. Phase three of this study captured the knowledge and experiences of Australian midwives, their support for water immersion and their experiences of using policies and guidelines to inform and facilitate the practice. Methods: Critical, post structural, interpretive interactionism was used to examine more than 300 responses to three open-ended questions included in a survey of 233 midwives. Comment data were analysed to provide further insight, context and meaning to previously reported results. Findings: Findings demonstrated a complex, multidimensional interplay of factors that impacted on both the midwife's ability to offer and the woman's decision to use water immersion under the themes ‘the reality of the system’, ‘the authoritative ‘others’’ and ‘the pseudo decision-makers’. Multiple scaffolded levels were identified, each influenced by the wider macro-socio-political landscape of Australian midwifery care. Conclusions: The insight gained from examining midwives’ views and opinions of water for labour and birth, has aided in contextualising previously reported results. Such insight highlights the importance of qualitative research in challenging the status quo and working towards woman-centred practice and policy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e178-e187
Number of pages10
JournalWomen and Birth
Issue number2
Early online date3 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Informed choice
  • Water birth
  • Water immersion


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