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Keywords:

  • patient-initiated elective cesarean delivery;
  • primary elective cesarean delivery;
  • qualitative interviewing;
  • self-help literature;
  • women's experiences

Patient-initiated elective cesarean delivery is emerging as an urgent issue for practitioners, hospitals, and policy makers and for pregnant women. This exploratory qualitative study looks at the birth stories and cultural knowledge that women use to inform the decision about an elective cesarean without medical indication. Data collection consisted of exploratory qualitative in-depth interviews with 17 primiparous women in British Columbia, Canada. Interviews revealed the influence of socially circulated birth stories and cultural narratives on their attitudes towards mode of delivery. Participants included in their decision making process both medical information and informal birth stories that were technologically inclined and confirmed their preference for cesarean delivery. Results indicate that women who participated in this study drew heavily from social and cultural knowledge in forming their decision to give birth by patient-initiated elective cesarean delivery. Although the numbers of women who request a cesarean delivery for social reasons is still small, the persuasive influence on parturient women of positive cesarean stories and negative vaginal stories must be considered. Care providers and childbirth educators need to become familiar with the social influences impacting women's decisions for mode of delivery so that truly informed choice discussions can be undertaken.