The role, practice and training of unregulated birth workers in Australia: a mixed methods study

Rigg, Elizabeth C. and Schmied, Virginia and Peters, Kath and Dahlen, H. G. (2018) The role, practice and training of unregulated birth workers in Australia: a mixed methods study. Women and Birth. pp. 1-11. ISSN 1871-5192


Background: In Australia, the provision of homebirth services by unregulated birthworkers (doulas, ex- registered midwives, traditional midwives and lay workers) has increased. Accessing a homebirth with a registered midwife via mainstream services is limited. Concern is growing that new legislation aimed at prohibiting unregulated birthworkers practice may result in homebirth going underground.

Aim: To explore the role, practice and training of unregulated birthworkers in Australian and establish what they would do if legislation prohibited their practice.

Methods: This study used a mixed methods sequential exploratory design to explore the practice, training and role of unregulated birthworkers in Australia. In phase one, four unregulated birthworkers were interviewed in-depth and the findings informed the development of a survey in phase two. This was distributed nationally through two consumer websites, social media, Facebook and email. Data from both phases were integrated.

Findings: Unregulated birthworkers in Australia provide homebirth services to women with high and low-risk pregnancies when this choice is unavailable or unacceptable within mainstream services. They operate covertly to protect their practice and avoid the scrutiny of authorities. Unregulated birthworkers can be experienced and trained in childbirth care and practice, much like a midwife working within a holistic paradigm of care.

Conclusion: Unregulated birthworkers believe they provide women with the homebirth service they want but cannot access. Mainstream service providers need to listen to consumer criticisms, as women seek answers outside the system. Change is needed to improve and align services with women’s expectations of homebirth.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Published online 24 May 2018. Permanent restricted access to ArticleFirst version in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Nursing and Midwifery
Date Deposited: 12 Jun 2018 04:09
Last Modified: 25 Jun 2018 04:11
Uncontrolled Keywords: unregulated birthworker (UBW); homebirth; midwife; doula; lay midwife
Fields of Research : 11 Medical and Health Sciences > 1110 Nursing > 111002 Clinical Nursing: Primary (Preventative)
11 Medical and Health Sciences > 1110 Nursing > 111006 Midwifery
Socio-Economic Objective: E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970111 Expanding Knowledge in the Medical and Health Sciences
Identification Number or DOI: 10.1016/j.wombi.2018.04.007

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