This volume is the first in a series which brings together studies of par ticular relevance to the care provided by midwives for childbearing women and their families. The series is intended primarily for midwives but we hope that other health professionals involved in the maternity services, as well as those who use the services, will also find the series interesting and useful. In undertaking this venture we have been fortunate in the support received from colleagues, friends and family. In particular we would like to thank the following: the editorial and production staff at Chapman and Hall in London for encouragement and advice; all the authors who have contributed to the series; colleagues at both the Nursing Research Unit, London University and the Department of Nursing Studies, Manchester University; and Paul and Rachel Robinson. This first volume is dedicated to Anne Bent, formerly Director of Education at the Royal College of Midwives and then Professional Officer for Midwifery at the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting. Always conscious of the need for midwifery to become a research-based profession and for midwives to be aware of the importance of research, she has made a major contri bution to initiating and facilitating developments in both these respects.