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The joy of childbirth: A mixed method exploration of positive birth experiences

The birth of a child is a significant event in a mother’s life and marks the start of many psychological, emotional and physical transitions. While negative birth experiences have been linked to poor psychological outcomes for mothers, positive birth experiences have been linked to increased self-esteem and confidence in parenting. Few studies have been conducted that explore the birth experience for New Zealand women, and this is particularly important due to the unique culture and maternity care system. The aim of the current study was to identify factors associated with positive childbirth experiences for New Zealand women using a mixed methods approach. Recruitment for the current study was completed in the context of a pilot study for a mobile phone app for pregnant women. Survey data for 54 women were collected at four time points and included measures of emotional distress and, after delivery, subjective birth experiences and obstetric outcomes. Six women were interviewed and asked to share their birth narrative based on a positive appraisal of their birth experience. The results of this study identified perceived control, midwifery support and the birthing environment as important factors associated with the birth experience. There was a weak non-significant correlation between pain and birth experience, supported by birth narratives that identified positive reframing of pain and a combination of the three factors above as mitigating factors. Emotional distress during pregnancy was not consistently associated with birth experience. Obstetric factors associated with birth experience included type of delivery, location of birth and presence of labour complications. This research highlights the importance of the maternity system and context of care for New Zealand women giving birth, a relevant finding given that during the time of the study, the midwifery profession was in the process of advocating to improve their working conditions and level of remuneration. Changes in maternity care and the midwifery profession, or lack of change, may have a considerable effect on the birth experience of New Zealand women.
Type of thesis
Nielsen, A. (2019). The joy of childbirth: A mixed method exploration of positive birth experiences (Thesis, Master of Applied Psychology (MAppPsy)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12548
The University of Waikato
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