Six out of ten first-time mothers who had a prolonged labour say that the experience will affect them for life, but more than eight out of ten still found giving birth exciting.
Those are two of the key findings of a survey of over 250 women published in the May issue of Journal of Clinical Nursing.
A team of Swedish researchers, led by Astrid Nystedt from Umea University, studied 84 women who had experienced prolonged labour with assisted vaginal or caesarean delivery. They then compared their experiences with 171 women who had had normal deliveries.
Just over a third of women who had experienced prolonged labour (34 per cent) felt negative about the overall experience, compared with just four per cent of women with a normal delivery.
Sixty per cent of the women with prolonged labour said the delivery would affect them for life, compared with 12 per cent of the women experiencing normal delivery.
Despite this, 84 per cent of the prolonged labour group found giving birth exciting, compared with 90 per cent of those with normal deliveries.
The majority of women remained calm during the birthing process, with only 31 per cent of those with prolonged labours saying that they "almost went into a panic because I didn't know what was happening". 16 per cent of the women with normal deliveries expressed this view.
A high percentage also felt it was best to do what staff told them – with 87 per cent of prolonged labours and 73 per cent of normal deliveries agreeing.
Pain was a key issue for both sets of women.
62 per cent of prolonged deliveries agreed with the statement that "it was so painful I thought I was going to die" and 69 per cent that "pain relief during delivery saved me". 47 per cent of normal deliveries agreed with both statements.
Overall 76 per cent of prolonged deliveries said it "was a pain to give birth", compared with 48 per cent of normal deliveries.
"Pain was the main factor mentioned by those who had a negative birth experience" says Astrid Nystedt. "However, 94 per cent of all the women surveyed were still positive about the support they received from their midwife and partner.
"Women who had a negative experience associated giving birth with feelings of pain and panic. It may have far-reaching and powerful psychological consequences if the childbirth experience ends in an unplanned Caesarean or unexpected forceps or vacuum delivery."
The research also provides some fascinating insight into the women's background.
According to the researchers, 75 per cent of women with prolonged deliveries had planned their pregnancy and this was "significantly higher" than the 60 per cent of women with normal deliveries.
In addition, 11 per cent of the women with prolonged labour said that their mothers had given birth to them as a result of assisted vaginal or caesarean deliveries. Only three per cent of the normal labour group had been born this way.
21 per cent of the women with prolonged labour said they didn't have a close relationship with their father, compared with 10 per cent of the women with normal labour.
Source: Eurekalert & othersLast reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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-- J.D. Salinger