To explore the social organization of women's preterm labor experiences.
Institutional ethnography investigated how the woman's experience is socially organized and for patterns of how something is organized to recur.
Eight women who experienced preterm labor while living in one city in Western Canada volunteered to participate.
Institutional ethnographic methodology guided the analysis of audiotaped transcribed interviews to understand the work these women do and the complexities of their everyday lives.
Women spoke about their fear of going home and feeling alone with the responsibility for their work of "keeping the baby in." Overall, preterm labor was experienced as a profound sense of personal responsibility for preventing preterm birth and was practiced as being "careful."
The assumption that the family is privately responsible for care work in the home results in the lack of assessment of resources for managing the medical plan on discharge and the lack of resources available or offered to assist families. The work of keeping the baby in conflicts with family care work responsibilities and can cause significant hardships for some women and families.