This blog series is designed to help women who are developing a birth plan join together with like-minded birthing professionals so as to have a shorter and safer labor and birth. Although written primarily for professional birth attendants, I hope information will be helpful to lay women planning their birth. Today we’ll look at the tenth “P” of my 10 “P’s” of keeping labor shorter and birth safer — prayer.
Although labor and delivery has been considered a “spiritual event” by midwives at least since the publication of Spiritual Midwifery(82) in the 1960’s, there is some recent literature that looks at the influence of spiritual beliefs on labor and delivery outcomes.
One study which examined whether family physicians were aware or not of their patient’s spiritual belief systems stated, “these results suggest that family physicians are infrequently aware of faith beliefs and experiences among their patients.” (83)
Others have commented on how important a component spirituality is to medical care in general: “We emphasize the importance of understanding the relationship between patients’ religious beliefs and their ability to deal with stress,” (84) and that, “Spirituality is an important aspect of health care that is not often addressed in modern day primary medical practice.
The authors conclude that, when appropriate, spiritual issues should be addressed in patient care since they may have a positive impact on patient health and behavior.” (85)
One excellent review shared with practitioners a method for reviewing a patient’s spiritual belief systems using the acrostic SPIRIT where:
- S = Spiritual belief system;
- P = Personal spirituality;
- I = Integration and involvement;
- R = Ritual practices and/or restrictions;
- I = Implications for medical care;
- T = Terminal event (delivery) planning. (86)
Although prayer and strongly internalized religious belief systems have been shown to have a positive association with positive health outcomes, very little data is available for maternity care outcomes.
For an event that midwives consider “intuitively spiritual” (82) the paucity of research is surprising.
However, one study did examine the influence of religious belief on maternity care outcomes and concluded, “Maternal and neonatal complications occurred significantly more often in women who identified themselves as having no religious preference than in women who had a religious affiliation … We conclude that a small positive influence of religion … appears to be a directly beneficial effect.” (87)
Here’s the entire series:
- Pain control,
- Payment, and
(82) Gaskin IM. Spiritual Midwifery. 3rd edition. Summertown, TN : The Book Publishing Co., 1990.
(83) King DE, Sobal J, Haggarty J 3d, Dent M, Patton D. Experiences and attitudes about faith healing among family physicians. J Fam Pract 1992;35:158-62.
(84) Sherill KA, Larson DB. Adult burn patients: the role of religion in recovery. S Med J 1988;7:819-24.
(85) McKee DD, Chappel JN. Spirituality and medical practice. J Fam Pract 1992;35:201-8.
(86) Maugans T. The SPIRITual history. Arch Fam Med 1996;5:11-6.
(87) King DE, Hueston W, Rudy M. Religious affiliation and obstetric outcome. South Med J 1994;87:1125-8.