Thematic Analysis of Women's Perspectives on the Meaning of Safety During Hospital-Based Birth

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To explore women's birth experiences to develop an understanding of their perspectives on patient safety during hospital-based birth.


Qualitative description using thematic analysis of interview data.


Seventeen women ages 29 to 47 years.


Women participated in individual or small group interviews about their birth experiences, the physical environment, interactions with clinicians, and what safety meant to them in the context of birth. An interdisciplinary group of five investigators from nursing, medicine, product design, and journalism analyzed transcripts thematically to examine how women experienced feeling safe or unsafe and identify opportunities for improvements in care.


Participants experienced feelings of safety on a continuum. These feelings were affected by confidence in providers, the environment and organizational factors, interpersonal interactions, and actions people took during risk moments of rapid or confusing change. Well-organized teams and sensitive interpersonal interactions that demonstrated human connection supported feelings of safety, whereas some routine aspects of care threatened feelings of safety.


Physical and emotional safety are inextricably embedded in the patient experience, yet this connection may be overlooked in some inpatient birth settings. Clinicians should be mindful of how the birth environment and their behaviors in it can affect a woman's feelings of safety during birth. Human connection is especially important during risk moments, which represent a liminal space at the intersection of physical and emotional safety. At least one team member should focus on the provision of emotional support during rapidly changing situations to mitigate the potential for negative experiences that can result in emotional harm.

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