The role, practice and training of unregulated birth workers in Australia: a mixed methods study

Article


Rigg, Elizabeth C., Schmied, Virginia, Peters, Kath and Dahlen, H. G.. 2019. "The role, practice and training of unregulated birth workers in Australia: a mixed methods study." Women and Birth. 32 (1), pp. E77-E87. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wombi.2018.04.007
Article Title

The role, practice and training of unregulated birth workers in Australia: a mixed methods study

ERA Journal ID30465
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsRigg, Elizabeth C. (Author), Schmied, Virginia (Author), Peters, Kath (Author) and Dahlen, H. G. (Author)
Journal TitleWomen and Birth
Journal Citation32 (1), pp. E77-E87
Number of Pages11
Year2019
PublisherElsevier
Place of PublicationAustralia
ISSN1871-5192
1878-1799
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wombi.2018.04.007
Web Address (URL)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1871519217302615
Abstract

Background: In Australia, the provision of homebirth services by unregulated birthworkers (doulas, ex- registered midwives, traditional midwives and lay workers) has increased. Accessing a homebirth with a registered midwife via mainstream services is limited. Concern is growing that new legislation aimed at prohibiting unregulated birthworkers practice may result in homebirth going underground.

Aim: To explore the role, practice and training of unregulated birthworkers in Australian and establish what they would do if legislation prohibited their practice.

Methods: This study used a mixed methods sequential exploratory design to explore the practice, training and role of unregulated birthworkers in Australia. In phase one, four unregulated birthworkers were interviewed in-depth and the findings informed the development of a survey in phase two. This was distributed nationally through two consumer websites, social media, Facebook and email. Data from both phases were integrated.

Findings: Unregulated birthworkers in Australia provide homebirth services to women with high and low-risk pregnancies when this choice is unavailable or unacceptable within mainstream services. They operate covertly to protect their practice and avoid the scrutiny of authorities. Unregulated birthworkers can be experienced and trained in childbirth care and practice, much like a midwife working within a holistic paradigm of care.

Conclusion: Unregulated birthworkers believe they provide women with the homebirth service they want but cannot access. Mainstream service providers need to listen to consumer criticisms, as women seek answers outside the system. Change is needed to improve and align services with women’s expectations of homebirth.

Keywordsunregulated birthworker (UBW); homebirth; midwife; doula;lay midwife
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020420503. Community and primary care
420499. Midwifery not elsewhere classified
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Byline AffiliationsUniversity of Western Sydney
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
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