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Despite the known benefits of continuous support during childbirth, the practice is still not routinely implemented in all maternity settings and women’s views and experiences might not be considered.
The purpose of the study was to integrate individual studies’ findings related to women’s experiences of continuous support during childbirth in order to expand the understanding of the phenomenon. The review question was: What were the views and experiences of women regarding continuous support during childbirth as reported in studies that adopted qualitative or mixed research methods (with a qualitative component) using semi-structured, in-depth or focus group interviews or case studies?
A detailed search was executed on electronic data bases: EBSCOhost: Medline, CINAHL, PsychINFO, SocINDEX, OAlster, Scopus, SciELO, Science Direct, PubMED and Google Scholar, using a predetermined search strategy. Reference lists of included studies were analysed to identify possible studies that were missing from electronic data bases.
Pre-determined inclusion and exclusion criteria were applied during the selection of eligible sources. After critical appraisal, a total of 12 studies were included for data-extraction and meta-synthesis.
Two themes were identified, namely the roles and attributes of the support persons and the type of support provided. Women’s perceptions about continuous support during childbirth were influenced by the characteristics and attributes of the support person as well as the types of supportive care rendered. Women preferred someone with whom they were familiar and comfortable.
Continuous support during childbirth was valued by most women. Their perceptions were influenced by the type of support person: a health professional or a lay support person. Health care institutions should include continuous support during childbirth in their policies and guidelines.