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New mothers' feelings of disappointment and failure after cesarean delivery

Kristen H Kjerulff, Laura H Brubaker
Birth 2018, 45 (1): 19-27

BACKGROUND: Childbirth is an important life event and how women feel in retrospect about their first childbirth may have long-term effects on the mother, child, and family. In this study, we investigated the association between mode of delivery at first childbirth and birth experience, using a new scale developed specifically to measure women's affective response.

METHODS: This was a prospective cohort study of 3006 women who were interviewed during pregnancy and 1-month postpartum. The First Baby Study Birth Experience Scale was used to measure the association between mode of delivery and women's postpartum feelings about their childbirth, taking into account relevant confounders, including maternal age, race, education, pregnancy intendedness, depression, social support, and maternal and newborn complications by way of linear and logistic regression models.

RESULTS: Women who had unplanned cesarean delivery had the least positive feelings overall about their first childbirth, in comparison to those whose deliveries were spontaneous vaginal (P < .001), instrumental vaginal (P = .001), and planned cesarean (P < .001). In addition, those who delivered by unplanned cesarean were more likely to feel disappointed (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 6.21 [95% confidence interval (CI) 4.62-8.35]) and like a failure (adjusted OR 5.09 [95% CI 3.65-7.09]) in comparison to women who had spontaneous vaginal delivery; and less likely to feel extremely or quite a bit proud of themselves (adjusted OR 2.70 [95% CI 2.20-3.30]).

CONCLUSIONS: Delivering by unplanned cesarean delivery adversely affects how women feel about their first childbirth in retrospect, and their self-esteem.


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