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Does childbirth experience affect infant behaviour? Exploring the perceptions of maternity care providers
Midwifery, Volume: 78, Pages: 131 - 139
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Objective - High levels of childbirth interventions are known to increase risk of health complications for mother and infant, alongsidehaving a negative impact upon maternal wellbeing. However less is understood about how childbirth experience may affect infant behaviour(e.g. how calm or unsettled a...
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Objective - High levels of childbirth interventions are known to increase risk of health complications for mother and infant, alongsidehaving a negative impact upon maternal wellbeing. However less is understood about how childbirth experience may affect infant behaviour(e.g. how calm or unsettled an infant is). This study explores maternity care provider perceptions of how and why childbirth experience may affect infant behaviour.Design - A qualitative semi-structured interview study.Setting - Bristol, Swansea and West Wales, UK.Participants - 18 maternity care providers.Measurements and findings - A semi-structured interview schedule was developed to explore maternity care providers' perceptions of howmaternal experience of childbirth could influence infant behaviour. Findings highlighted how maternity care providers perceived childbirthexperience to sometimes impact positively or negatively on infant behaviour. A calmer birth and postnatal experience was believed to leadto a calmer infant, whilst physical and emotional stress was associated with more challenging infant behaviours such as crying and beingunsettled. Pathways were perceived to be direct (pain and stress during birth might physiologically affect the infant) and indirect (birth wasperceived to affect maternal wellbeing and subsequently her interactions with her baby). However, postnatal factors such as skin to skin,postnatal environment and emotional support were believed to mediate these impacts.Key conclusions - Birth experience was considered to affect infantbehaviour. Promoting as positive a birth experience as possible,including postnatal care, was viewed as significant in supportingpositive infant behaviours. Maternity care providers believed this couldhelp facilitate bonding, attachment, and mother-infant wellbeing in thepostnatal period.Implications for practice - The findings highlight maternity care providers' views concerning supporting normal birth and protectingemotional wellbeing during birth and postnatally. Where interventions are necessary, ensuring a calm environment, and enabling normal postnatal behaviours such as skin to skin and breastfeeding were perceived as important. Midwives, it was claimed, need time to nurture mothers alongside providing physical care.Limitations - Participants were self-selecting and might therefore have been biased.
Childbirth Perceptions, Childbirth Interventions, Infant Temperament, Baby Behaviour, Skin to Skin, Breastfeeding