King's College London

Research portal

Deliberate acquisition of competence in physiological breech birth: A grounded theory study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Shawn Walker, Mandie Scamell, Pam Parker

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e170-e177
JournalWomen and Birth
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018

King's Authors


Problem: Research suggests that the skill and experience of the attendant significantly affect the outcomes of vaginal breech births, yet practitioner experience levels are minimal within many contemporary maternity care systems. Background: Due to minimal experience and cultural resistance, few practitioners offer vaginal breech birth, and many practice guidelines and training programmes recommend delivery techniques requiring supine maternal position. Fewer practitioners have skills to support physiological breech birth, involving active maternal movement and choice of birthing position, including upright postures such as kneeling, standing, squatting, or on a birth stool. How professionals learn complex skills contrary to those taught in their local practice settings is unclear. Question: How do professionals develop competence and expertise in physiological breech birth? Methods: Nine midwives and five obstetricians with experience facilitating upright physiological breech births participated in semi-structured interviews. Data were analysed iteratively using constructivist grounded theory methods to develop an empirical theory of physiological breech skill acquisition. Results: Among the participants in this research, the deliberate acquisition of competence in physiological breech birth included stages of affinity with physiological birth, critical awareness, intention, identity and responsibility. Expert practitioners operating across local and national boundaries guided less experienced practitioners. Discussion: The results depict a specialist learning model which could be formalised in sympathetic training programmes, and evaluated. It may also be relevant to developing competence in other specialist/expert roles and innovative practices. Conclusion: Deliberate development of local communities of practice may support professionals to acquire elusive breech skills in a sustainable way.

View graph of relations

© 2018 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454