'Woman-centred' is a term that describes healthcare that respects the values, culture, choices, and preferences of the woman and her family, within the context of promoting optimal health outcomes. Woman-centredness is designed to promote satisfaction with the maternity-care experience and improve wellbeing for women, babies, their families and healthcare professionals; it is an essential component of healthcare quality improvement.
Childbirth Australia's vision is for woman-centred maternity care to be a reality for all Australian families.
What is Woman-Centred Care?
Based upon a survey of the literature (see References), Childbirth Australia has adopted the following definition of 'woman-centred care'.
- Accepts each woman's knowledge of her own being and respects her ability to identify her own needs and those of her baby.
- Recognises the lifelong outcomes of maternal and infant health
- Is ‘holistic’ in terms of addressing the needs engendered by a woman’s physiology, psychology, ethnicity, economic circumstances, sexual orientation, culture, religion, and level of education.
- Recognizes women as the predominant caregivers and strives to support them in managing the challenges they face accessing health care, due to their childrearing and caregiving responsibilities.
- Facilitates links to childbirth information and education, enabling women to ask questions and make informed choices about such issues as who provides care, where it is given and what form it takes.
- Recognises women’s rights to self-determination in terms of choice of caregiver and birth support. This includes decisions about the role that family members, carers or significant others will play during pregnancy, labour, birth and postnatally.
- Gives women continuity of care, so they are able to form trusting relationships with those who support them, and promotes collaboration between care providers to ensure smooth transitions from one level of care to another.
- Focuses on the woman's unique needs, expectations and aspirations rather than the needs of the institutions or professions involved.
- Ensures that women are equal partners in the planning and delivery of maternity care, through user involvement that goes beyond the tokenistic.
Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (2011) Patient-centred care: Improving quality and safety through partnerships with patients and consumers, ACSQHC:Sydney
Donald M. Berwick (2009) What ‘Patient-Centered’ Should Mean: Confessions Of An Extremist, Health Affairs 28, 4, 555
Maureen P Corry and Rima Jolivet (2009) Doing the Right Thing for Women and Babies: Policy Initiatives to Improve Maternity Care Quality and Value, Perinat Educ, 18, 7
Marcia Hills & Jennifer Mullett (2002) Women Centred Care: Working Collaboratively to Develop Gender-Inclusive Health Policy, Health Care for Women International, 23, 84
Royal College of Midwives (2008) Woman Centred Care, RCM:UK