BACKGROUND: Within midwifery, there is a move toward reclaiming and promoting physiological birth. Because midwifery is woman-centered in nature, it is essential that the experience of birth is understood from the woman’s perspective. To date, there has been little research focusing exclusively on women’s experience of physiological birth. AIM: The aim of this study was to explore women’s experiences of physiological birth. METHOD: A narrative approach was taken, and in-depth face-to-face interviews were used to gather birth stories. The participants were 10 women who had recently experienced a physiological birth. Data were analyzed to identify themes occurring across the narratives. FINDINGS: The findings are presented within the explanatory framework of childbirth as a rite of passage composing of three phases: separation, liminal, and incorporation. During birth, women separated from the external world and sought to minimize external and internal distractions. In the liminal phase, they entered “their own world” and experienced an altered state of consciousness. After their baby was born, they reintegrated with the external world and incorporated their birth experience into their sense of self. CONCLUSION: The findings of this study suggest that women’s experiences during physiological birth are multidimensional and not aligned with biomedical descriptions of physically defined stages of labor. Birth was an empowering and transformative experience for the women in the study. The rites of passage framework may assist with developing a discourse about birth that resonates with women’s experiences.
International Journal of Childbirth / Vol. 6, No. 1, pp.46-56