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Keywords:

  • Birthrites;
  • Caesarean section;
  • childbirth experiences;
  • choice;
  • continuity;
  • control;
  • VBAC

This paper reports the findings of a small pilot study undertaken to identify women's perceptions of their Caesarean section and/or their experience of attempting to achieve a vaginal birth after Caesarean. Fifty-nine women replied to a survey designed and distributed by the consumer organisation Birthrites. The survey consisted of 22 closed and open-ended questions. Descriptive statistics and content analysis were used to analyse the data. Six major factors that impacted on women's perceptions of their birthing experience were identified: (i) ‘being supported’; (ii) ‘violated expectations’; (iii) ‘loss of control’; (iv) ‘health professionals’ language, attitudes and care practices’; (v) ‘the labour experience and the cascade of intervention’; and (vi) ’surgical birth and the separation from the baby’. The results support previous work in this area and demonstrate that some women suffer from psychological trauma following an emergency Caesarean section. The experiences of the women in this small study indicate a need for health professionals to not only better understand the distress that may occur but to also develop a greater understanding of the impact of their interactions with women. The study also provides a consumer ‘voice’ on current routine hospital policies surrounding vaginal birth after Caesarean and confirms the importance of choice, control and continuity of care for all women regardless of their ‘risk’ status.