EMPOWERING WOMEN'S SELF-AGENCY IN PRENATAL CARE WITH A TRUSTING PATIENT-PROVIDER RELATIONSHIP
Introduction: During pregnancy, women often feel that their needs and opinions are disregarded by their health care providers. As a result, women may grow to distrust their providers. This distrust obstructs communication while leaving patients to manage concerns, goals, and health barriers on their own. In this study, we examine the fundamental aspects of a trusting patient-provider relationship that empower women to be leaders on their health care team during pregnancy.
Methods: Twelve focus groups were conducted with a representative sample of women who gave birth in Kalamazoo, MI between January and September 2017. Four groups of 6 to 12 participants discussed expectations of prenatal care.
Results: Women who had trusting relationships described experiences of positive communication with their prenatal care providers. One participant shared that having her opinion valued gave her the comfort "to be open and honest and seek out the help and the support that [she] need[ed]." Women with distrusting relationships shared experiences about poor communication. Another participant expressed her desire for this support: "Listen to us. Even though it might seem crazy or stupid, just listen and be the person we can come to for our problems. [. . .] Just be the person we can lean on during that time, like a backbone."
Conclusion: A trusting relationship in prenatal care empowers women to control their health decisions. Providers who focus their approach on respect and communication are more likely to earn this fundamental trust and ensure that their patients' needs are met.