Objective The aim of this study was to examine the expectations and experiences in women undergoing a caesarean section on maternal request and compare these with women undergoing caesarean section with breech presentation as the indication and women who intended to have vaginal delivery acting as a control group. A second aim was to study whether assisted delivery and emergency caesarean section in the control group affected the birth experience.
Design A prospective group-comparison cohort study.
Setting Danderyd Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.
Sample First-time mothers (n= 496) were recruited to the study in week 37–39 of gestation and follow up was carried out 3 months after delivery. Comparisons were made between ‘caesarean section on maternal request’, ‘caesarean section due to breech presentation’ and ‘controls planning a vaginal delivery’.
Methods The instrument used was the Wijma Delivery Expectancy/Experience Questionnaire (W-DEQ).
Main outcome measures Expectations prior to delivery and experiences at 3 months after birth.
Results Mothers requesting a caesarean section had more negative expectations of a vaginal delivery (P < 0.001) and 43.4% in this group showed a clinically significant fear of delivery. Mothers in the two groups expecting a vaginal delivery, but having an emergency caesarean section or an assisted vaginal delivery had more negative experiences of childbirth (P < 0.001).
Conclusions Women requesting caesarean section did not always suffer from clinically significant fear of childbirth. The finding that women subjected to complicated deliveries had a negative birth experience emphasises the importance of postnatal support.