A free-standing birth centre in the UK 
‘Nes­ting’ and ‘Matres­cence’ as dis­tinc­tive fea­tures of a free-standing birth centre in the UK

Denis J. Walsh, MA, PhD, RM, DPSM
Senior Lec­tu­rer in Mid­wi­fe­ry, Mid­wi­fe­ry Research Unit, Uni­ver­si­ty of Cen­tral Lan­ca­shire
Pres­ton, PR1 ZHE, UK
Mid­wi­fe­ry (2006) 22, 228 – 239.

Objec­tive : to explore the culture, beliefs, values, cus­toms and prac­tices around the birth pro­cess within a free-standing birth centre (FSBC).

[Article, PDF for­mat]

Desi­gn : ethnography.

Set­ting : a birth centre situa­ted in the mid­lands of England. Par­ti­ci­pants : women atten­ding the centre, mid­wives and maternity-care assis­tants (MCAs) wor­king at the centre.

Fin­dings : women in the stu­dy see­med to invoke intui­tive nesting-related beha­viours in their assess­ment of the sui­ta­bi­li­ty of the birth centre. In addi­tion, the birth centre staff’s focus on crea­ting the right ambience for birth may also ema­nate from nes­ting concerns. Birth-centre staff assis­ted women through the ‘beco­ming mother’ tran­si­tion, which is concep­tua­li­sed as ‘matres­cent’ care.

Key conclu­sions : the birth-centre envi­ron­ment eli­ci­ted nesting-like beha­viours from both women and staff. This for­med part of a nur­tu­ring orien­ta­tion that was concep­tua­li­sed as ‘matres­cent’ (beco­ming mother) care. ‘Matres­cence’ does not seem to be groun­ded in cli­ni­cal skills but is rela­tio­nal­ly media­ted. Impli­ca­tions for prac­tice : nesting-like beha­viours and ‘matres­cent’ care in this context chal­lenge mater­ni­ty ser­vices to review tra­di­tio­nal concep­tua­li­sa­tions of safe­ty and tra­di­tio­nal expres­sions of cli­ni­cal intra­par­tum care. 


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