BACKGROUND: The views of mothers are important in shaping policy and practice regarding options for intrapartum care. Mothers in rural and remote areas face unique challenges accessing services, and these need to be well understood. Therefore, our aim was to understand the compromises that women who live in remote and rural settings, more than 1 h from a maternity unit, face regarding intrapartum care.
METHODS: Qualitative semi-structured telephone interviews (n = 14) were undertaken in rural Scotland with 13 women who had young children and one who was pregnant. Interviews were transcribed and thematically analysed by two researchers.
RESULTS: Key themes identified were women's perceptions about risk and the safety of different pathways of maternity care and birth locations; the actual and perceived distance between home and the place of birth, and the type of maternity care available at a place of birth. Mothers in rural and remote areas face particular challenges in choosing where to have their babies. In addition to clinical decisions about 'place of birth' agreed with healthcare professionals, they have to mentally juggle the implications of giving birth when at a distance from family support and away from familiar surroundings. It was clear that many women from rural communities have a strong sense of 'place' and that giving birth in a geographical location, community and culture that feels familiar is important to many of them.
CONCLUSIONS: Health care staff need to appreciate the impact of non-clinical factors that are important to mothers in remote and rural areas and acknowledge these, even when they cannot be accommodated. Local and national policy also needs to reflect and respond to the practical challenges faced by rurality.