Background: Performing an episiotomy where clinically indicated is a key intervention in the Obstetric Anal Sphincter Injury Care Bundle (OASI‐CB) implemented across England and Wales to reduce the risk and increase the detection of severe perineal trauma after birth. Standards of consent provided to people in maternity care generally and for episiotomy specifically have been reported as suboptimal. Compromising birthing people's personal autonomy or sense of control has been linked to a dissatisfying birth experience, negative psychological sequelae, and litigation. Methods: This study explored experienced midwives' practice of informed consent for episiotomy during a midwife‐led birth. We sampled 43 midwives across eight NHS Trusts in England and Wales using online focus groups and telephone interviews about their experience of consent in episiotomy. Using qualitative content analysis and art‐based co‐analysis methods with eight midwives from across the research sites, we co‐analyzed and co‐constructed three themes and four practice recommendations from the data. Results: Three themes were constructed from the data: Assent rather than consent, Change in culture to support best practice, and Standardized information. These themes informed the shaping of four recommendations for best practice in episiotomy informed consent. Conclusion: This study has shown how variations in midwifery practice and culture may impact birthing people's experience of informed consent in episiotomy. Midwives may not have the knowledge or skills to conduct a detailed consent conversation, leading to variation in practice and messages for birthing people. The use of antenatal discussion aids can offer women the opportunity to become informed and fully participate in the decision‐making process.
- informed consent
- qualitative research