Clinical Practice Guidelines Antenatal care - Module I

2.1 Understanding the woman’s context

Page last updated: 02 April 2013

“An individualised approach to care should be offered at all times rather than routine practice. Care provision needs to be flexible, friendly and nonthreatening, making it accessible to all women, including young women.” (Chalmers et al 2001)

Every woman has a right to antenatal care that takes into account her individual social and emotional situation. While many Australian women experience high levels of economic prosperity, educational attainment and good health, there are still many women living in poverty, subsisting on inadequate pensions, restricted by under-employment or low-income occupations and experiencing poor health outcomes (AWHN 2008). Gender inequalities persist, with women economically less secure, maintaining the primary carer role, and subject to violence (including physical and sexual assault, as well as emotional, psychological and financial abuse) (AWHN 2008).

The experience of pregnancy, especially in the early stages, differs for each woman. The stability of a woman’s relationships and social environment will influence her experience. In addition, if the pregnancy is unplanned or results from sexual assault, the woman may experience uncertainty about whether to proceed with the pregnancy.

Although addressing all of these factors is beyond the scope of antenatal care, taking them into account will lead to a fuller understanding of an individual woman’s situation and the environment for the developing baby. This provides the opportunity for early intervention to reduce any risk to the woman and her baby. Referral to other services (eg housing, social services) should also be considered, in partnership with the woman.