Tawny Thomas and Dr. Lynn Clark Callister, College of Nursing
Globally, birth is a significant event in the lives of childbearing parents. Understanding the perceptions of new mothers and fathers and their satisfaction with health care enlightens health care providers about parents’ responses to birth, their specific needs during that time, and actions health care providers can implement to provide the most ideal experience possible during this exciting and important event. “There is a need for increased knowledge of the perspective of childbearing families as they make the transition to parenthood” (Hickok, 2007, p. 5). This study is important to health care providers as it provides insight into the perceptions of mothers and fathers as they share their experiences (Callister, 2004). The purposes of this descriptive study were to describe the perceptions of American childbearing families about their health care and making the transition to parenthood as part of a multi-national study.
This project piqued my interest because much research has been performed concerning maternal or paternal perceptions of childbirth, but very little research has been performed investigating the perceptions of mothers and fathers experiencing birth together. This research gives a perspective of birth events and informs health care providers on the needs and expectations of mothers and fathers (Hickok, 2007).
As a student researcher, my tasks were many. I sought out research subjects using snowball sampling, collected and recorded data, and presented research findings. I gave a podium presentation at the Intermountain Healthcare/Brigham Young University College of Nursing Research Conference on November 3, 2008, and my research poster was presented at Utah Perinatal Conference. An application to present at the Western Institute of Nursing Research Conference has been submitted also.
To recruit research subjects, I used referrals from nursing classmates and personal acquaintances to mail research packets to couples all over the United States. A convenience sample of 81 English speaking couples 18-47 years of age who had given birth in the past twelve months was collected. These couples completed individual maternal and paternal surveys (the Kupio Instrument for Mothers and the Kupio Instrument for Fathers) and answered open-ended questions (Vehviläinen-Julkunen, 2006).
After receiving completed surveys, I entered quantitative findings into the SPSS system and qualitative findings into Word documents. Qualitative data were the main focus of my study, and these data were analyzed as appropriate for themes. These findings will be compared to the perspectives of childbearing families in Europe, the Middle East, Scandinavia, the Peoples Republic of China, and the United Kingdom.
Four main themes emerged from the data. First, parents viewed the birth experience as a transcendent life event. One father said, “No experience compares to being there as your child comes into the world. It is a memory I will treasure forever.” Another father said, “A spiritual connection between [us] grew. I knew it was important to start our bonding as a family.” Second, parents felt positive about birth when health care providers demonstrated respect and provided individualized supportive care. One mother said, “Care providers need to assure women they can do anything and that their bodies were made to give birth. Laboring women need lots of support. If a woman is able to birth in the way she wants, she feels empowered and strong.
Third, parents expressed the importance of facilitating paternal involvement. One father summarized paternal feelings by stating, “I want to feel like I am in charge even though I know I am not.” Another father said, “I helped the nurses as they rushed to get ready…I felt like an important part of the birth and was very involved.” Finally, parents felt the need for more parental perinatal education across the childbearing year (i.e. pregnancy through the first three months of life). Parents expressed interest in several educational areas, some of which are: prenatal and childbirth education; nutrition and exercise during pregnancy; pain management during labor; birthing options; events during and after birth; postpartum depression; postpartum recovery; and breastfeeding.
From these findings I was able to draw up conclusions and recommendations for nursing practice. The needs and expectations of childbearing families relating to health care delivery are essential to assess in order to deliver family centered care and promote positive outcomes. There is a need to acknowledge the perspectives of couples as they make the transition to parenthood. Study participants identified the need for more education and more involvement in decision making related to childbirth. In addition, as the globe grows smaller, there is a need to compare cross cultural perspectives of childbearing families.
Performing this research was an engaging experience for me. Having never performed real nursing research before, I learned immensely about the research process and what nurse researchers do. I learned how to collect and input raw data, analyze open-ended questions, apply for research conferences and publications, and write and present research findings. I appreciated my mentor who is an accomplished nurse researcher and led me in every step. This project was a great challenge that prepared me for future scholastic opportunities and to use evidence-based practice as a nurse. It also helped me realize the positive influence I can have on other caregivers when I work hard to research and present something I am passionate about.
- Callister, L. C. (2004). Promoting positive birth experiences. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing, 33(4), 484.
- Hickok, L. M. (2007). Becoming mothers and fathers. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Honors Thesis.
- Vehviläinen-Julkunen, K. (2006). Maternity services in transition to parenthood in the information societies– an international study. Research proposal, University of Kuopio, Finland.
Acknowledgments: thanks goes to Dr. Lynn Callister for her excellent and tireless mentorship; Lindsay Hickok, whose preliminary research and findings were instrumental in continuing this research; the University Honors Program for funding Lindsay’s project; the Office of Research and Creative Activities for funding my research and providing this outstanding undergraduate opportunity; and the BYU College of Nursing for encouraging evidence-based practice and providing an environment to excel in this area.