Birth Professionals

Communicating with women in labor

Have you ever noticed that some topics get more research time than others? A recent systematic review identified a big hole in the evidence for practice: how can we improve communication between maternity care staff and women during labor and birth?1

So there isn’t much research, is this really a problem?  I think it is.  Communication is an often overlooked intervention and an area of frequent variation between maternity care staff.  Why do I consider it an intervention? Because communication is how we provide education. Communication is how we ensure informed consent. Communication is how we include a woman and her family in the care we give.  I think of communication as a process that can affect the outcomes of care. Poor communication results in perceived mixed-messages. Poor communication results in women who feel they are not respected.

Why is there so little research?  I suspect it is because communication is generally thought of in terms of “satisfaction” with care rather than the outcomes of care. The researchers did find that both studies examining ways to improve communication looked at satisfaction but not health outcomes.  I have a faculty mentor who sees the same frustration with nursing education; new techniques are tested for “student satisfaction” but not necessarily learning or application to practice. I don’t know why we put so little value in communication skills as a society. I’d love to hear any ideas you have about the issue.

Chang Y-S, Coxon K, Portela AG, Furuta M, Bick D. Interventions to support effective communication between maternity care staff and women in labour: A mixed-methods systematic review. M. 2018;59:4-16. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2017.12.014
Jennifer (Author)