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A Qualitative Approach to Examine Women's Experience of Planned Cesarean


  • The authors report no conflict of interest or relevant financial relationships.


Katharina Leithner MD, Professor, Department of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, Medical University of Vienna, Währinger Gürtel 18-20 1090 Vienna, Austria. katharina.leithner@



To investigate women's expectations regarding cesarean and to assess the subjective experience of birth of these women. Because the birth experience is a multidimensional phenomenon, qualitative as well as quantitative approaches were used to investigate women's expectations and experiences with cesarean.


Descriptive cohort study.


The Division of Obstetrics and Feto-Maternal Medicine of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of an Austrian medical university.


Forty-eight women with a planned cesarean birth.


Semistructured interviews were conducted with the 48 women before (36th week of gestation) the planned cesarean and shortly thereafter. Data were analyzed by means of a qualitative content analysis. Anxiety, depression, and psychological distress were assessed using standardized questionnaires.


More than three fourths (81.3%) of the women were satisfied with the cesarean. Nevertheless, 83.3% of the women expressed anxiety about cesarean, including fears about the health of the infant, the epidural anesthesia, and possible complications. Before the cesarean, only one half of the women (54.2%) felt that they had been sufficiently informed about the planned cesarean, and only 25% had detailed knowledge about the specific course of events of the cesarean. Quantitative assessment showed low depression levels and overall psychological distress before and after the cesarean. State anxiety levels were high before the cesarean and moderate afterwards.


Although the overall satisfaction and psychological tolerability of a planned cesarean is high, improvement is possible by providing more detailed information to the prospective mothers and by specifically addressing prevalent anxieties.