Objective: to investigate the factors that influence the experience of mothers and fathers when they have chosen to return home, earlier than is the normal routine, following the birth of their baby.
Design: a qualitative study, using open interviews, was undertaken. The text of the transcripts was coded and categorised according to the grounded theory method using constant comparative analysis.
Setting: interviews were carried out with 12 parents, six mothers and six fathers, individually in their own homes. They had all left a maternity/family ward at the Helsingborg Hospital in southern Sweden within 26 hours of birth whereas the normal discharge time is 72 hours.
Measurements and findings: 'a sense of security' was the core category. Achieving a sense of security linked to informed choice for early discharge appeared to be dependent on the following categories: (l) the midwives' empowering behaviour; (2) affinity within the family; (3) the parents' right to autonomy/control; (4) physical well-being. There appears to be an inner connection between each of these categories.
Key conclusions: the midwife's empowering behaviour supports the parents' sense of security and encourages their informed choice of earlier discharge after birth. When the mothers' and babies return home it strengthens the affinity within the family and the father's sense of participation.
Copyright 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.