• fear of childbirth;
  • phenomenology;
  • negative birth experience;
  • birth trauma


Objective: To describe the meaning of previous experiences of childbirth in pregnant women who have exhibited intense fear of childbirth such that it has an impact on their daily lives.

Design: A descriptive phenomenological study.

Setting: A maternity clinic for women with fear of childbirth in the western part of Sweden.

Participants: Nine women with intense fear of childbirth who were pregnant with their second child and considered their previous birth experiences negative.

Methods: Interviews that were transcribed verbatim and analyzed with a reflective life-world approach.

Results: The essential meanings that emerged were a sense of not being present in the delivery room and an incomplete childbirth experience. The women felt as if they had no place there, that they were unable to take their place, and that even if the midwife was present, she did not provide support. The experience remained etched in the women's minds and gave rise to feelings of fear, loneliness, and lack of faith in their ability to give birth and diminished trust in maternity care. These experiences contrasted with brief moments that made sense.

Conclusions: Previous childbirth experiences for pregnant women with intense fear of childbirth have a deep influence and can be related to suffering and birth trauma. The implication is to provide maternity care where the nurse/midwife is present and supports women during birth in a way that enables them to be present and take their place during birth.