Autoethnography and Severe Perineal Trauma

An Unexpected Journey From Disembodiment to Embodiment

Holly S. Priddis


BMC Womens Health. 2015;15(88) 

In This Article


Background: There is a lack of research reporting on the physical and emotional experiences of women who sustain severe perineal trauma (third and fourth degree tears). When the researcher identifies with the group being researched, autoethnography can allow an insight into the experiences of the marginalised group through the telling of a personal story. The aim of this paper is to share the journey travelled by an autoethnographer who on examining the issue of severe perineal trauma came to understand the challenges and rewards she experienced through this reflective and analytic process.

Methods: A transformative emancipatory approach guided the design, data collection and analysis of findings from this study. For this paper, a multivocal narrative approach was taken in presenting the findings, which incorporated the words of both the autoethnographer and the twelve women who were interviewed as a component of the study, all of whom had sustained severe perineal trauma.

Results: As an autoethnographer, being a member of the group being researched, can be confronting as the necessary reflection upon one's personal journey may lead to feelings of vulnerability, sadness, and emotional pain. The transformation from disembodied to embodied self, resulted in a physical and emotional breakdown that occurred for this autoethnographer.

Conclusion: Autoethnographers may experience unexpected emotional and physical challenges as they reflect upon their experiences and research the experiences of others. When incorporating a transformative emancipatory framework, the hardships are somewhat balanced by the rewards of witnessing 'self-transformation' as a result of the research.