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The ontology of early labour (and the difficulties of talking about it): Using interview methods to investigate uncertain and gendered concepts

Abstract

This article presents reflections on the process of collecting interview data about fathers’ experiences of ‘early labour’. Early labour is the first phase of labour, defined in textbooks by regular contractions and cervical dilation of up to 4 cm. Women are typically encouraged to stay at home during early labour and only travel to hospital when they are in ‘active labour’. Maternity services (and other providers of antenatal education) devote a great deal of attention to educating parents-to-be about the phases of labour and about how to recognise the ‘right time’ to travel to hospital but ‘early’ admission remains a problem. Prompted by suggestions in the existing literature that male partners may influence when women seek admission, my research set out to explore fathers’ understanding and experiences of early labour. However, interviewing fathers about early labour was challenging and, in this article, I will argue that this was due to a particular configuration of practical, epistemological and ontological issues. I argue that early labour is a slippery and uncertain concept beyond the clinical context and that Mol’s ‘multiple ontologies’ provides productive tools for reflecting on the difficulty of asking about early labour, keeping early labour in focus during the interviews, and finding early labour in the data. However, the gendered nature of reproductive social research requires additional analysis to understand the gender dynamics at work when asking about reproductive research objects of multiple or uncertain ontologies.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2019-01
Journal Methodological Innovations
Electronic ISSN 2059-7991
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 12
Issue 1
APA6 Citation Roberts, J. (2019). The ontology of early labour (and the difficulties of talking about it): Using interview methods to investigate uncertain and gendered concepts. Methodological Innovations, 12(1), doi:10.1177/2059799119825594
DOI https://doi.org/10.1177/2059799119825594
Publisher URL https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2059799119825594
Additional Information Date of acceptance is estimated.

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