The impact of a perineal care bundle on women's birth experiences in Queensland, Australia: A qualitative thematic analysis

Women Birth. 2023 May;36(3):271-280. doi: 10.1016/j.wombi.2022.09.002. Epub 2022 Sep 13.


A care bundle was introduced into 28 Australian hospitals in 2018 with the aim of reducing severe perineal tears. There has been limited research regarding the impact of this bundle on women's birth experiences.

Question: How does the introduction of a perineal care bundle impact on women's birth experiences in Queensland maternity hospitals?

Methods: We recruited 18 women who had birthed in five Queensland hospitals where the bundle had been implemented. Semi-structured, individual interviews were analysed using reflexive thematic analysis.

Findings: Three descriptive themes were generated: 1) Lack of information and consent to bundle elements, 2) Other non-consented and disrespectful treatment and 3) Recommendations for hospitals and clinicians. Two analytic themes were generated: 1) Default-position: Prioritising policies over women's autonomy and 2) Counter-position: Women asserting their rights to autonomy and respect.

Discussion: None of the women interviewed could recall having received information about the perineal care bundle from clinicians during pregnancy. While many women accepted that its elements were in their or their baby's best interests, this was not the case for all women. Some women reported coercive and non-consented application of bundle elements, which they found distressing.

Conclusion: Given the broader institutional context in which the perineal bundle was implemented, the impact on information provision, informed consent and the detrimental emotional consequences for some women arising from the bundle's implementation were largely foreseeable. The potential for bundled care initiatives to impinge on women's human rights to autonomy and respectful care should be given greater preventative attention prior to implementation.

Keywords: Intrapartum; Obstetric violence; Patient care bundles; Perineum; Qualitative research.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Parturition / psychology
  • Patient Care Bundles*
  • Pregnancy
  • Qualitative Research
  • Queensland