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Women's experience of caesarean section: a qualitative study

Principal investigator
Maggie Redshaw (NPEU (Former member))
Christine Hockley (NPEU (Former member))
Labour and delivery, Women's experience of maternity care
Start year
End year


Caesarean 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 impact 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.

The study focused on women's experiences associated with caesarean section in their own words, utilizing the open-ended responses to several questions from women participating in the 2006 National Maternity Survey. Questionnaires were sent out at three months post-partum and a response rate of 63 percent was achieved.Nearly a quarter of women (23%,n = 682) had a caesarean section birth, 53 percent of which were because of unforeseen problems in labour. Two thirds of of women having a caesarean section responded to one or more open questions.These data were analysed using qualitative methods.

Key findings

  • 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."
  • 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 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.


Journal Articles