Navigating uncertainty alone: A grounded theory analysis of women's psycho-social experiences of pregnancy and childbirth during the COVID-19 pandemic in London

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Abstract

PROBLEM: Maternity care underwent substantial reconfiguration in the United Kingdom during the COVID-19 pandemic.

BACKGROUND: COVID-19 posed an unprecedented public health crisis, risking population health and causing a significant health system shock.

AIM: To explore the psycho-social experiences of women who received maternity care and gave birth in South London during the first 'lockdown'.

METHODS: We recruited women (N = 23) to semi-structured interviews, conducted virtually. Data were recorded, transcribed, and analysed by hand. A Classical Grounded Theory Analysis was followed including line-by-line coding, focused coding, development of super-categories followed by themes, and finally the generation of a theory.

FINDINGS: Iterative and inductive analysis generated six emergent themes, sorted into three dyadic pairs: 1 & 2: Lack of relational care vs. Good practice persisting during the pandemic; 3 & 4: Denying the embodied experience of pregnancy and birth vs. Trying to keep everyone safe; and 5 & 6: Removed from support network vs. Importance of being at home as a family. Together, these themes interact to form the theory: 'Navigating uncertainty alone'.

DISCUSSION: Women's pregnancy and childbirth journeys during the pandemic were reported as having positive and negative experiences which would counteract one-another. Lack of relational care, denial of embodied experiences, and removal from support networks were counterbalanced by good practice which persisted, understanding staff were trying to keep everyone safe, and renewed importance in the family unit.

CONCLUSION: Pregnancy can be an uncertain time for women. This was compounded by having to navigate their maternity journey alone during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e106-e117
JournalWomen and Birth
Volume36
Issue number1
Early online date17 May 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2023

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Maternity Care
  • Pregnancy and Childbirth
  • Women's Psycho-Social Experiences
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Grounded Theory

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