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BackgroundThe public domain of midwifery practice, represented by the educational and hospital institutions could be blamed for a subconscious ethical dilemma for midwifery practitioners. The result of such tension can be seen in complaints from maternity service users of dehumanised care. When expectations are not met, women report dehumanising experiences that carry long term consequences to both them and their child.ObjectivesTo revisit the ethical foundation of midwifery practice to reflect the feminist Ethic of Care and reframe what is valuable to women and midwives during the childbirth experience.Research designA comprehensive literature review is presented from the midwifery and feminist ethics discourse.Ethical considerationsNil to report.FindingsWomen are vulnerable during childbirth as they need care, yet they prioritise elements of relationship in their experience. The Ethic of Care approach equalises the relationship between the midwife and the woman, providing the space for relationship building and allowing midwives to meet the expectations of their accepted responsibility.DiscussionSome midwives manage to balance the demands of the institution with the needs of the woman. This is described as both an emotional and professionally challenging balancing act.ConclusionUntil there is a formal acknowledgement of the different ethical approach to midwifery practice from within the profession and the Institution, midwifery identity and practice will continue to be compromised.

Original publication




Journal article


Nursing ethics

Publication Date





803 - 811


University College London, UK


Humans, Midwifery, Pregnancy, Ethics, Nursing, Feminism, Maternal Health Services, Female