In labor or in limbo? The experiences of women undergoing induction of labor in hospital: findings of a qualitative study

Annabel Jay, Hilary Thomas, Fiona Brooks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
79 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Induction of labor currently accounts for around 25% of all births in high-resource countries, yet despite much research into medical aspects, little is known about how women experience this process. This study aimed to explore in depth the induction experience of primiparous women. Methods: A qualitative study was undertaken, using a sample of 21 first-time mothers from a maternity unit in the south of England. Semi-structured interviews were conducted in women's homes between 3 and 6 weeks postnatally. Data were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed thematically. Results: Women awaiting induction on the prenatal ward appeared to occupy a liminal state between pregnancy and labor. Differences were noted between women's and midwives’ notions of what constituted “being in labor” and the ward lacked the flexibility to provide individualized care for women in early labor. Unexpected delays in the induction process were common and were a source of anxiety, as was separation from partners at night. Women were not always clear about their plan of care, which added to their anxiety. Conclusions: Conceptualizing induction as a liminal state may enhance understanding of women's feelings and promote a more woman-centered approach to care. Thorough preparation for induction, including an explanation of possible delays is fundamental to enabling women to form realistic expectations. Care providers need to consider whether women undergoing induction are receiving adequate support, analgesia, and comfort aids conducive to the promotion of physiological labor and the reduction of anxiety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-70
Number of pages7
Issue number1
Early online date17 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • induction
  • labor
  • liminality
  • woman's experiences


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