Creating coherent perinatal care journeys: An ethnographic study of the role of continuity of care for Danish parents in a vulnerable position

Marianne Stistrup Frederiksen*, Virginia Schmied, Charlotte Overgaard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Background: While continuity of care is a core element of high-quality maternity care, it is potentially even more important for pregnant women and their partners who are at risk of adverse health outcomes because of psychosocial vulnerability. However, little is known about how a coherent care journey can be ensured for women and families who may require interdisciplinary and inter-sectoral services during pregnancy and the postnatal period. Aim: To explore the role of continuity of care in creating a coherent care journey for vulnerable parents during pregnancy and the postnatal period. Methods: An ethnographic study conducted in Denmark based on interviews with, and field observations, of 26 mothers and 13 fathers receiving services due to mental health problems, young age, past substance abuse and/or adverse childhood experiences. Findings: Three key findings emerged: 1). Developing relationships allowed parents to know and feel known by care providers, which helped them feel secure and reach out for support. 2). Handover of information allowed parents to feel secure as their need for support was recognised by care providers; some parents, however, felt exposed when information was shared 3). Receiving relevant services allowed parents to have their needs for support addressed, which requires easy referral pathways and coordination of services. Conclusion: All forms of continuity of care should be prioritised in the organisation of maternity care services for women and families in vulnerable positions. While relational continuity is important, continuity of care must also reach across providers, sectors and services to ensure coherent care journeys.

Original languageEnglish
JournalWomen and Birth
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13. Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank and appreciate all the participating families for contributing with invaluable knowledge to this study. Also, we thank the midwives and health visitors for their collaboration on the project. This research was funded by a grant from Aalborg Municipality and Aalborg University , Denmark. We thank Aalborg Municipality for supporting and contributing to the funding of the research.


  • Continuity of care
  • Ethnography
  • Health visiting
  • Maternity care services
  • Midwifery
  • Vulnerability


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