A feminist narrative study of the maternity care experiences of women who were sexually abused in childhood
Montgomery E., Pope C., Rogers J.
© 2014 Elsevier Ltd. Background: One in five women experience childhood sexual abuse and these women may suffer trauma during childbirth. Their maternity care is often reminiscent of their abuse. Objective: To inform practice by exploring the impact that childhood sexual abuse has on the maternity care experiences of adult women. Design: This was a narrative study from a feminist perspective. The part of the study reported here utilised in-depth interviews with women. Data were analysed using the Voice-Centred Relational Method of analysis and further thematic analysis. Setting: Users of one maternity service in the South of England. Participants: Nine women were interviewed following purposive sampling. Findings: The main themes identified were women's narratives of self, women's narratives of relationship, women's narratives of context and the childbirth journey. The concept of silence linked all these themes and aspects of the study relating to it are reported here. Key conclusions and implications for practice: Every day midwives will encounter women who were sexually abused in childhood. Most of these women do not disclose to those caring for them and may not respond to a direct question. They will not necessarily be distinguishable from other women accessing maternity services but they may find their experiences deeply traumatic. Silence is a challenge for those providing their care. Open communication and a genuine interest in women as individuals are required. Midwives need to listen for the unspoken messages women are trying to convey. If all women were treated with dignity and respect more may emerge from the experience of childbirth feeling empowered rather than violated.