The ethical nature of the mother-midwife relationship: a feminist perspective

PhD Thesis

Thompson, Faye E.. 2001. The ethical nature of the mother-midwife relationship: a feminist perspective. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.

The ethical nature of the mother-midwife relationship: a feminist perspective

TypePhD Thesis
AuthorThompson, Faye E.
SupervisorGorman, Don
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages427

This research explored the ethical nature of the mother-midwife relationship in order to refine our understanding of the place of ethics in the context of everyday midwifery practice – the practice of ‘being with woman’ in childbirth. The ethics explicitly available to midwives are derived from practices such as moral philosophy and bioethics, whose ethical frameworks are reductionist in their exclusion of context and relationship. Given that the midwifery profession is currently promoting a model of practice built on partnership and relationship, existing codes and frameworks are examined for their adequacy. An assumption of the study was that a distinctive midwifery ethic was implicitly available in the lived realities and shared engagement of mothers and midwives, embedded in practice. Conceptual theoretical research methodology facilitated exploration of the taken-for-granted assumptions of established theory, official policies such as Codes, and the profession’s literature. Feminist-constructivist theory formed the epistemological basis for gaining insight into the implicit ethics of midwifery. Personal narratives of mothers and midwives were analysed and interpreted for meaning, and transcripts returned to participants for validation. These constructed meanings were then compared and contrasted with those explicit in Codes and current literature. The central theme to emerge from the narratives was the use and abuse of power in relationships. Other major themes were institutional dominance consistently used to describe the status quo, values conflict especially linked to workplace/service provider versus personal/professional midwifery ethics, and the ethical adequacy of a ‘being with woman’ relationship. Findings indicate that midwifery does need a different ethic to that of bioethics and problem-solving principlism, and that such a new ethic would look like those promoted by feminist-virtue ethics. The latter not only redress the politics of the existing hegemonic maternity services system, but they also place women’s concerns central to practice and deliberation. The aspirations, values and lived reality of mothers and midwives, and the commitment of the professional-friend midwife to the particularity of the birthing woman, are the focus of a reconstructed ethic for midwifery practice, an ethic which reunites morality and personal interest. Implications and recommendations are discussed.

Keywordsnursing, midwifery, maternity, ethics, health, women, relationship
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020420499. Midwifery not elsewhere classified
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