• adolescent childbearing;
  • birth experience

Most of what is known about the meaning women assign to the experience of childbirth in the United States is based primarily on studies of Euro American, highly educated, married women of middle to higher income levels. Yet almost half a million adolescents give birth annually. This exploratory, qualitative study was conducted with 25 adolescents in an alternative school, partnered with the juvenile justice system, who had given birth. An open-ended question format was used for the interviews, and analysis was conducted by using extended case methodology. The study revealed a number of differences between the existing literature reports about women's interpretations of birth and the meanings assigned to childbirth experiences by the adolescents in this study. A key difference was the relationship between the pain of childbirth and responsibility for their child. The results provide an entree into understanding unique characteristics of giving birth as an adolescent and potential roles health care providers can play to promote a positive experience.