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Factors Associated With a Positive Birth Experience: An Exploration of Swedish Women's Experiences

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BACKGROUND: The birth of a baby is a powerful life event that has implications for a woman's wellbeing and future health. A positive birth experience promotes a sense of achievement, enhances feeling of self-worth, and facilitates confidence—all of which are important for a healthy adaptation to motherhood and psychological growth. Understanding what constitutes a positive birth experience is critical to providing maternity care that meets childbearing women's individual needs, preferences, and priorities.

OBJECTIVE: To explore the prevalence of Swedish women reporting a very positive birth experience 2 months and 1 year after childbirth and identify factors associated with this experience. In addition, the study aimed to identify whether women's assessment of their birth experience changed over time.

METHOD: A prospective, longitudinal study where the main outcome variable was perceptions of a very positive birth experience. The study was undertaken in a Northern region of Sweden in 2007. Women were recruited at their ultrasound examination in midpregnancy. Data was collected via questionnaires. There were 928 women who responded to questions about their birth experience at 2 months postpartum. Nearly 83% of these women (n = 763) also completed the questionnaire package 1 year after birth. Descriptive statistics were used together with Friedman's test to detect changes over time. Logistic regression analysis was performed to reveal which factors contributed most to a very positive birth experience.

RESULT: More than a third of the women reported a very positive birth experience. Women's assessment of birth changed over time with 22% of the women becoming more positive and 15% more negative. Important associated factors for a very positive birth experience included positive feelings about the approaching birth as well as feeling in control, using no or only cognitive forms of pain management, and achieving a spontaneous vaginal birth. Furthermore, how women rated their midwifery care was also shown to affect their assessment of their birth experience.

CONCLUSION: This study found that women's birth experiences changed over time and most becoming more positive after 1 year. Factors associated with a very positive birth experience were related to women's prenatal attitudes, intrapartum procedures, pain relief used, and care received during labor and birth. Respectful individualized midwifery care that remains focused on the woman and keeping birth normal increases positive perceptions of the birth experience.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2013-09-01

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  • The International Journal of Childbirth is a peer-reviewed, quarterly journal publishing original research, reviews, and case studies concerned with the practice of midwifery, women's health, prenatal care, and the birth process. The journal encourages the exploration of the complex and contextual issues surrounding childbirth provision and outcomes and invites manuscripts from a wide range of clinical, theoretical, political, methodological, psychological, public health, policy, and multicultural and interdisciplinary perspectives.
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