HAPPINESS AS AN OUTCOME OF CHILDBIRTH: THE PERSPECTIVE OF TRADITIONAL JAPANESE MIDWIVES AND THEIR PATIENTS, pp. 157-167
Authors: Yana Gepshtein
Abstract: Pregnancy and childbirth can be happy and fulfilling for women and their families. Yet pregnancy and childbirth are often associated with fear and anxiety. Care during pregnancy can reinforce fears or it can support happiness. In a study of independent Japanese midwives, we found that their care supported and reinforced happiness, and created an atmosphere of excitement about healthy childbirth (Gepshtein et al., 2007). Both midwives and expecting mothers viewed "happiness" as an important aspect of midwifery care and a desirable outcome of childbirth. Expecting mothers explained that they chose traditional midwifery care over conventional medical care because they thought the former was based on "happiness" and the latter was based on "fear." This chapter addresses two questions: (1) how Japanese midwives and women under their care described "happiness," and (2) what specific features of prenatal care help achieve and support "happiness." Expectant mothers described the state of happiness as feeling safe, trusting their bodies, bonding with the newborn, feeling of achievement, feeling connected to their families, and having the sense of comfort and pleasure. Midwives believed that happiness develops through healthy pregnancy and childbirth, and that it is supported by close communication between the pregnant woman and her caregiver, education about normal pregnancy and childbirth, and a therapeutic environment of care. Interestingly, when asked to describe the "therapeutic environment of care," women participants and midwives unanimously listed food as a crucially important aspect of such environment. In Japanese birth centers, food is carefully selected and prepared by midwives. We summarized the central role of food in positive therapeutic environments using the concept of "food as care" (Gepshtein et al., 2007).