Background: Maternal morbidity refers to pregnancy-related complications, ranging in severity from acute to chronic. In Ireland one in 210 maternities will experience a severe morbidity. Yet, how women internalize their experience of morbidity has gone largely unexplored. This study aimed to explore women's experiences of maternal morbidity.
Methods: A qualitative semi-structured interview format was utilized. Purposive sampling was used to recruit 14 women with a maternal morbidity before, during or after birth; nine women were diagnosed with one morbidity including hypertensive disorders, haemorrhage, placenta praevia and gestational diabetes whereas five women were diagnosed with two or more morbidities. Thematic analysis was employed as the analytic strategy.
Results: Four superordinate themes were identified: powerlessness, morbidity management, morbidity treatment and socio-behavioural responses to morbidities. Women were accepting of the uncontrollable nature of the adverse outcome experienced. While being treated for trauma, women were satisfied to relinquish their autonomy to ensure the safety of themselves and their babies. However, these events were debilitating. Women's inability to control their own bodies, as a result of the morbidity, contributed to high levels of frustration and anxiety. Morbidities impacted greatly on women's quality of life and sometimes these effects persisted for a prolonged period after delivery. Women felt that they were provided very little information on the practicalities of living with their condition; many were uncertain how to manage their morbidities in the home setting.
Conclusion: Healthcare providers should ensure that women who experience a maternal morbidity are fully debriefed and have sufficient information on the morbidity including ongoing care and expectations prior to discharge.