Women's Lived Experience of Their Unexpected Birthing Process

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To describe the essence of women's unexpected birthing experiences.


Descriptive phenomenology using interviews with 10 women who had birthing experiences that were not what they had expected, including (1) an instrumentally assisted vaginal delivery either by forceps and/or by a vacuum extractor, (2) a third- or fourth-degree tear, (3) birth by an emergency cesarean birth, or (4) women who perceived that their delivery was incongruent with their expectations. Interviews of each woman's birth experience were transcribed using Colaizzi's method of analysis.


The findings reflected the absence of three critical elements—caring, connection, and control—that the women believed were missing from their birthing experiences. The lack of caring was demonstrated by the statement: “They were there to take care of your baby and not you and that's the end of it.” The lack of connection was demonstrated by the statement “I just didn't have a nurse who was really there.” The lack of control was demonstrated by this statement: “You're not in control of the experience.”

Clinical Implications

Perinatal nurses have an opportunity to influence a caring environment in which women feel connected to their nurse and in control of their labor and birth. Tailoring nursing care to meet the needs of each mother, especially women who are experiencing things they had not expected in labor or during birth, may be the key ingredient to ensure optimal birthing experiences.

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