Institutional processes and individual responses: women's experiences of care in relation to cesarean birth.
Redshaw M., Hockley C.
BACKGROUND: Cesarean section is an increasingly common mode of birth, and although clinical care has improved and the risks reduced, less attention has been paid to the effect of the procedure and the care received. The aim of this study was to gain a better understanding by investigating individual women's recent experiences and reflections on their care. METHODS: Views of women who had recently undergone cesarean birth were obtained in a study in which a random sample of women was selected by means of birth registrations in England and invited to complete a questionnaire 3 months after the birth. Text responses to open-ended questions about care during labor and birth, the postnatal period in hospital, and anything else women wished to say about their maternity care were analyzed using qualitative methods. RESULTS: A response rate of 63 percent was achieved; 23 percent of women (n = 682) had a cesarean section birth, 53 percent of which were because of unforeseen problems in labor. A total of 66 percent of women who had a cesarean section responded to one or more open questions. Anticipated themes that were confirmed related to expectations, uncertainty, emotional reactions, pain and discomfort, explanations, support, and adjustment. Emerging themes included "being heard,"how it might have been different,"wasted effort,"just another mother,"wounds and hurt feelings," and "needing to talk." CONCLUSIONS: Women responded as individuals and despite different clinical circumstances, the role of the staff and the institutions in which care was provided were key factors in the way most women constructed their cesarean section experience. The themes described present a powerful argument and reminder about why health professionals working in maternity care need to continue to listen to women.