The paradoxes of communication and collaboration in maternity care: A video-reflexivity study with professionals and parents

irene Korstjens*, Jessica Mesman, Isabel van Helmond, Raymond de Vries, Marianne Nieuwenhuijze

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background: Research on maternity care often focuses on factors that prevent good communication and collaboration and rarely includes important stakeholders – parents – as co-researchers. To understand how professionals and parents in Dutch maternity care accomplish constructive communication and collaboration, we examined their interactions in the clinic, looking for “good practice”.

Methods: We used the video-reflexive ethnographic method in 9 midwifery practices and 2 obstetric units.

Findings: We conducted 16 meetings where participants reflected on video recordings of their clinical interactions. We found that informal strategies facilitate communication and collaboration: “talk work” – small talk and humour – and “work beyond words” – familiarity, use of sight, touch, sound, and non-verbal gestures. When using these strategies, participants noted that it is important to be sensitive to context, to the values and feelings of others, and to the timing of care. Our analysis of their ways of being sensitive shows that good communication and collaboration involves “paradoxical care”, e.g., concurrent acts of “regulated spontaneity” and “informal formalities”.

Discussion: Acknowledging and reinforcing paradoxical care skills will help caregivers develop the competencies needed to address the changing demands of health care. The video-reflexive ethnographic method offers an innovative approach to studying everyday work, focusing on informal and implicit aspects of practice and providing a bottom up approach, integrating researchers, professionals and parents.

Conclusion: Good communication and collaboration in maternity care involves “paradoxical care” requiring social sensitivity and self-reflection, skills that should be included as part of professional training.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-153
Number of pages9
JournalWomen and Birth
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • Interprofessional relations
  • Video-reflexivity
  • collaboration
  • communication
  • maternity care
  • Caregivers
  • Parents
  • Maternity care
  • Communication

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