Promoting physiological and humanised birth

This overall aim of this programme of research is to progress knowledge about the humanisation of childbirth. It consists of four main research strands: birth environment, birth physiology, birth ethics and birth technology.

This builds on the work from Dr. Newnham’s PhD – a critical ethnography of a hospital labour ward, with a focus on epidural analgesia.

Two theoretical concepts derived from this work are the Paradox of the institution (figure 1) and the Circle of trust (figure 2).

Figure 1 Paradox of the institution

Figure 2 Circle of Trust

Publications: Newnham E, McKellar L & Pincombe J 2018. Towards the humanisation of birth: A study of epidural analgesia and hospital birth culture. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.

Newnham, E, McKellar, L & Pincombe, J 2017. ‘It’s your body, but…’ Mixed messages in childbirth education: findings from a hospital ethnography, Midwifery 55: 53–59.

Newnham, E, McKellar, L & Pincombe, J 2017. Paradox of the institution: findings from a hospital labour ward ethnography, BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 17(1): 2-11.

Newnham E, McKellar L & Pincombe, J 2016. A critical literature review of epidural analgesia, Evidence Based Midwifery 14(1): 22-28.

Newnham E, McKellar L & Pincombe, J 2015. Documenting risk: A comparison of policy and information pamphlets for using epidural or water in labour, Women & Birth 28(3): 221-227.

Humanising Birth series for The Practising Midwife
Newnham E & Page L 2019. Humanisation of childbirth series article 1: The humanisation of childbirth. The Practising Midwife, 22(8): 14-17.

Newnham E 2019. Humanisation of childbirth series article 2: The circle of trust. The Practising Midwife, 22(9): 15-19.

Newnham E, Karlsdottir SI & Sanders, R 2019. Humanisation of childbirth series article 3: Re-envisaging labour pain – a humanistic approach. The Practising Midwife, 22(10): 14-17.

Newnham, E 2019. Humanisation of childbirth series article 4: The paradox of the institution. The Practising Midwife, 22(11): 16-19.

Newnham, E 2020. Humanisation of childbirth series article 5: Humanising policy – the curious case of epidural analgesia and water immersion. The Practising Midwife, 23(1): 14-17.

Newnham, E 2020. Humanisation of childbirth series article 6: Midwifery technology – Midwifery practice for the humanisation of birth. The Practising Midwife, 23(2): 14-17.

Bass, J., McKellar, L., & Newnham, E. Humanisation of childbirth series article 7: The role of critical pedagogy in midwifery education. The Practicing Midwife, 23(3).

Page, L., & Newnham, L. Humanisation of childbirth series article 8: Where do we go from here? The Practicing Midwife, 23(4).

Lead: Dr Elizabeth (Liz) Newnham

Study 1 – Exploring women’s views of labour pain: a collaborative research approach

Our aim is to further investigate women’s views about pain in labour, using a co-design research method, and based in the concepts of salutogenesis (focusing on factors that help create wellbeing) (Downe & McCourt 2008) and humanisation of birth (with its tenets of respect, relationship, embodiment) (Davis-Floyd, 2018) that focuses on these positive aspects of pain.

Publications to date: Newnham, E & Karlsdottir, IS. 2019. Exploring women’s views of labour pain: a collaborative research approach. Congress of the Nordic Federation of Midwives, Midwifery Across Borders. Harpa, Reykyavik, 2-4th May, Poster presentation.

Project Leads: Dr. Elizabeth (Liz) Newnham (Griffith University), Dr. Sigfridur Inga Karlsdottir (University of Akureyri), Prof. Jenny Gamble (Griffith University)

Other related publications/activities: Newnham E, Moran P, Carroll M, Begley C, Daly D. 2020. Comparison of outcomes between nulliparous women who used epidural analgesia in labour and those who did not: a prospective cohort study. Trinity Health and Education International Research Conference 2020, Dublin, Ireland 3-5th March, Oral presentation.

Newnham E. 2019. Bare Autonomy: Power and ethics in contemporary maternity care. Australian College of Midwives 22nd annual conference – Power, passion and politics, Canberra, Australia 17-19th September, Oral presentation.

Karlsdottir SI, Newnham E, Kristjansdottir H & Sanders R 2019. Decision-making around pain and its management during labour and birth. In E Jefford & J Jomeen (eds.) Empowering Decision-Making in Midwifery: A Global Perspective. Routledge, Abingdon.

Leap N, Newnham E, Karlsdottir I. 2019. Approaches to pain in labour: implications for midwifery practice. In S Downe & S Byrom (eds.) Squaring the Circle: researching normal childbirth in a technological world. Pinter and Martin, London.

Karlsdóttir, SI, Newnham, E & Leap N. 2019. How can midwives support women to work with pain in labour? Congress of the Nordic Federation of Midwives, Midwifery Across Borders, Harpa, Reykyavik, 2-4th May, Conference Workshop.

Newnham E & Kirkham M. 2019. Beyond autonomy: Care ethics for midwifery and the humanization of birth, Nursing Ethics 26(7-8):2147-2157.

Newnham, E. 2018. Women’s experiences of pain in labour: developing the case for a salutogenic approach to childbirth pain. COST Action BIRTH Conference – From Birth to Health: Towards Sustainable Childbirth, Lisbon, Portugal, 17-18th September, Oral presentation.

Newnham, E. 2018. The circle of trust: pain, embodiment and the midwife-women relationship in labour. Icelandic Association of Midwives National conference, Akureyri, Iceland, 5th May, Invited Keynote.

Newnham E. 2017. Ethics of care: a way towards humanised birth. Conference paper, Normal Labour and Birth Research Conference, University of Central Lancashire, Grange-over-Sands, UK, 2-4th October, Oral presentation.

Newnham E 2014. Birth control: Power/knowledge in the politics of birth, Health Sociology Review 23(3): 254-268.