Objective: to describe women's perceptions of care in Western Australian birth centres following a previous hospital birth.
Design, setting and participants: an exploratory design was used to study the care experiences of 17 women recruited from three Western Australian birth centres. Data were obtained from in-depth interviews that explored women's perceptions of their care in both the birth centre and hospital context.
Findings: four key themes emerged from the analysis: 'beliefs about pregnancy and birth', 'nature of the care relationship', 'care interactions', and 'care structures'. The themes of 'beliefs about pregnancy and birth' and 'nature of the care relationship' are discussed in this paper. Beliefs about pregnancy and birth refer to the philosophical underpinnings of pregnancy and birth held by women and their carers. Nature of the care relationship identifies women's perceptions of their relationship with health professionals. Care interactions and care structures will be described in a subsequent paper.
Key conclusions and implications for practice: The women's comments suggested differences in philosophy between hospital and birth-centre settings. The philosophy and beliefs of caregivers was an important component of the care experience. Women valued the normality of the birth-centre approach and the opportunity to experience the birth of their child with collaborative support from a midwife.
Copyright 2001 Harcourt Publishers Ltd.