Online Program

Family theory in childbirth intervention research: A critical review

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Laura Merrell, MPH, CPH, Department of Community and Family Health, College of Public Health, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
Cheryl A. Vamos, PhD, MPH, Department of Community and Family Health, University of South Florida, College of Public Health, Tampa, FL
Background: Childbirth interventions have received increased scrutiny in the U.S. due to their medical and financial consequences. Furthermore, C-section rates have consistently climbed, accounting for nearly one-third of all births. The proportion of C-sections among low-risk, primiparous women also remain high. Although C-sections are often medically necessary, short and long-term risks remain. Previous research has focused on mother's knowledge and beliefs and the provider environment. However, little research has examined childbirth interventions through a family perspective. We aim to explore the extent to which family theory is used in childbirth intervention research.

Methods: A critical review of the literature was conducted to examine the breadth, depth, and relevance of the utilization of family theory in childbirth intervention research. Peer-reviewed databases (PubMed, Sociological Abstracts, and Web of Science) were searched utilizing a combination of terms relating to childbirth, intervention, and family theories/constructs.

Results: Findings suggest there is a dearth of literature examining childbirth interventions through a family perspective. Among the few articles that applied a family theory lens, three main theories emerged: feminist framework; political economy; and family-centered care.

Conclusion: Decreasing unnecessary C-sections remains a significant public health priority as reflected in Healthy People 2020. Although childbirth is an important transition point in which an individual or dyad becomes a ‘family,' this social unit is often ignored in research. Understanding the role that family plays in childbirth intervention can inform research, policy and practice that better reflects the current realities and improve health and well-being among all those affected.

Learning Areas:

Social and behavioral sciences
Systems thinking models (conceptual and theoretical models), applications related to public health

Learning Objectives:
Describe the public health consequences resulting from unnecessary medical interventions used during childbirth. Evaluate the extent to which a family perspective is applied in childbirth intervention research. Discuss the important role of family during the childbirth period and the contribution that this social unit brings to research, policy and practice.

Keyword(s): Theory, Birth Outcomes

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a second year doctoral student in the Department of Community and Family Health at the University of South Florida. My research interests include women's health, international health, and pregnancy and childbirth. I have worked on several NIH funded research grants.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.