OBJECTIVE: to describe midwives' experience of the encounter with women and their pain during childbirth.
DESIGN: qualitative study using a phenomenological approach. Data were collected via tape-recorded interviews.
SETTING: Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Göteborg, and Karolinska Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden in 2000.
PARTICIPANTS: nine experienced midwives between 12 and 28 years of midwifery practice.
KEY FINDINGS: the essential structure was described as a striving to become an 'anchored companion'. 'To be a companion' was to be available to the woman, to listen to and see her situation mirrored in her body, and to share the responsibility of childbirth. To be 'anchored' was to show respect for the limits of the woman's ability as well as one's own professional limits. Five constituents can further describe the essential structure: listening to the woman; giving the woman an opportunity to participate and to be responsible; a trusting relationship; the body expresses the woman's situation; and to follow the woman through the process of childbirth.
IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: the basis for maternity care should give an opportunity for midwives to be anchored companions. This could be done by emphasising listening to the woman, participation, responsibility, a trusting relationship and a clear understanding of the professional limits and the limits of the woman's ability.
2002. Vol. 18, no 2, 155-164 p.