Past Student Projects

Can magazine articles influence young women’s intentions for labour and birth?

Kate Young (Honours project)
Supervisor: Dr Yvette Miller

The aim of this project is to examine how both celebrity and non-celebrity endorsement of birth choices in magazine articles can affect young women’s intended maternity care decisions. This project will also look at how women’s perceived risk of birth, what they expect labour and birth to be like, and attitudes towards birth can affect the way such endorsements influence their intentions. In doing this research, we hope to better understand how the media’s use of personal labour and birth stories can influence women’s future maternity care decision-making, and to improve communication of birth options in the popular media so that women will be better able to make informed birth choices.


One Born Every Minute – Critical Discourse Analysis of Patient/Care Provider Interactions in a Maternity Care Setting

Gabrielle Stevens & Kate Mulherin (Research Internship Project)
Supervisors: Rachel Thompson and Yvette Miller

Until recently, patient involvement in medical decision-making was limited and paternalistic models of care dominated in most health arenas. The gradual shift towards patient-centred approaches to care, and the push for greater patient involvement and autonomy in the medical encounter has required both care providers and patients to make adjustments in the way they interact with one another. Whilst there are many known benefits to greater patient involvement in medical decision making, evidence suggests that aspects of paternalism are still ever-present, particularly in maternity care contexts.

Our study sought to examine patient/care provider interactions from a unique perspective, by analysing footage from the 8-part UK documentary series ‘One Born Every Minute’. This series provides insight into the realities of a busy maternity ward, following the experiences of both patients, attending midwives and physicians. Our observations were driven by an interest in the communicative tools used by both women and care providers to resist and/or reinforce traditional paternalistic models of care, and the broader contexts driving these behaviours. Our findings suggested that whilst various attempts to involve and give greater power to women existed, a culture of paternalism largely dominated, and was reinforced by both care providers and women themselves.

Decision-making in maternity care: A content analysis of training obstetrics manuals

Britta Wigginton & Megan Turnbull (Research Internship Project)
Supervisors: Rachel Thompson and Yvette Miller

Many Australian women feel disempowered in the Australian maternity care system, and uninvolved in decisions about their maternity care (Hirst, 2005). An Australian study found that over 96% of women would like more input in decisions pertaining to their labour and birth, and were up to 25 times more likely to be satisfied with their care when they were actively involved in decision-making (Brown & Lumley, 1998). In this context, there is a need to better understand the factors that contribute to prevailing limited opportunities for women’s participation in (informed) maternity care decision-making.

While health care providers learn through a variety of channels, textbooks are a prominent teaching tool, particularly early in health care providers’ education. We examined the content of commonly used textbooks in the field of maternity care in Australia, with the aim of uncovering how the textbooks frame decision-making in maternity care, what advice or information they provide to students about appropriate decision-making processes and how they construct women’s role in decision-making. Our content analysis revealed that the information presented in textbooks plays a role in perpetuating a paternalistic culture in maternity care and may be a key avenue for efforts to promote patient autonomy and involvement in decision-making.

Women’s Labour and Birth Preferences

Gabrielle Stevens (Honours project)
Supervisor: Dr Yvette Miller

The aim of this project is to determine how risk information and health provider communication may influence women’s preferences for induction of labour, specifically for pregnancies that have exceeded their estimated due date by more than one week. The project will also look at women’s perceptions of risk and choice when making such decisions, and their general views about childbirth and health care providers.

Maternal Weight and Clinical Decision-Making

Kate Mulherin (Honours project)
Supervisor: Dr Yvette Miller

The aim of this project is to investigate the impact of a woman’s pre-pregnancy Body Mass Index (BMI) on clinical decision-making, and the nature and quality of maternity care provided. This study involves surveying advanced-level medical students and midwifery students all over Australia, and analysing survey data collected from over 600 women who recently gave birth in Queensland. There is a growing awareness of overweight and obesity in pregnancy, reflected by the recent release of the Statewide Maternity and Neonatal Network’s Clinical Guidelines on the Management of Obesity in Pregnancy. In light of these guidelines, it is important to find out about current attitudes, knowledge, and understanding about overweight and obesity in maternity care, particularly among future doctors and midwives. Ideally, gaining such knowledge will inform our understanding of how to effectively implement the guidelines to better meet the needs of maternity care professionals and their patients.


Weighing the Quality of Queensland Maternity Care

Women’s Perceptions of Care Based on Body Size

Renee Fletcher (Masters Project)
Supervisors: Dr Yvette Miller and Rachel Thompson

A recent intern psychologist working at the Queensland Centre for Mothers & Babies has analysed how women feel about the quality of care they receive during antenatal, pregnancy, birth, and post-birth care in Queensland. This research was conducted in order to see whether the new clinical guidelines on obesity during pregnancy could affect women’s body image and birthing experience. After conducting 30 interviews with Queensland mothers, preliminary results suggested that many of the women who had perceived their body size as being large experienced lower pregnancy and birth quality of care, with many reporting incidences of weight stigma and weight related comments. Further quantiative research needs to be conducted alongside the current qualitative analyses as well as research into maternity care providers attitudes towards women of varying body shapes and sizes before this project is completed.