Background: Over the past decade or so, recommendations for improvements in maternity care have emphasised the importance of providing woman-centred care. Feedback from women about existing maternity services can help to identify whether services are currently meeting women’s needs. The present study aims to capture women’s expectations of, and experiences with maternity care, and to explore whether maternal and birth characteristics are associated with those experiences.
Methods: A survey will be undertaken with a sample of approximately 2,000 women who have given birth over a 3-month period at seven public maternity units in two neighbouring health districts in New South Wales (NSW), Australia. The survey will be mailed out three-four months after birth. The study will also examine two strategies intended to increase survey response rates: use of two types of pre-notification letters, and request for consent from women to link survey responses with health information recorded at the time of birth. Data analysis will examine response rate, evidence of sample bias and effect of pre-notification letters; describe expectations and experiences with maternity care and associations with maternal and/or health characteristics; and where possible, compare results with maternity satisfaction data reported by others.
Discussion: This study will provide, for the first time in NSW, comprehensive information about women’s expectations, experiences and satisfaction with maternity services in two local health districts. It will identify aspects of care that are meeting women’s needs, and areas where care and service provision may be improved in line with the aspirations of Towards Normal Birth. The survey tool may also prove to be appropriate for use by other health districts and/or state-wide.