Just Another Day in a Woman's Life? Part 11: Nature and Consistency of Women's Long-Term Memories of Their First Birth Experiences


  • Based on a presentation given at the Ninth Birth Conference, “Innovations in Perinatal Care: Assessing Benefits and Risks,” San Francisco, 11-13 November 1990.

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ABSTRACT: Twenty women who attended the author's natural childbirth classes between 1968 and 1974 were the informants in this study of long-term memories of their first childbirths. The data from each informant consisted of 1) a labor and birth questionnaire, including an open-ended account of her labor, written shortly after her baby was born; 2) a similar questionnaire and account written in 1988 and 1989; and 3) a transcribed interview during which her memories and perceptions were discussed and any discrepancies between the questionnaires were explored. The questionnaires were compared for consistency of recall, and the interviews consulted for further clarification. Specific memories were excerpted, compared, classified, tabulated, and summarized. Findings were that, years later, women's memories are generally accurate, and many are strikingly vivid, especially of onset of labor; rupture of the membranes; arrival at the hospital; actions of doctors, nurses, and partners: particular interventions; the birth; and first contact with the baby. Most memory lapses or confusion were minor. Evidence of a halo effect was observed as well. (BIRTH 19:2 June, 1992)