Open Access Open Badges Research article

Impact of mode of delivery on the birth experience in first-time mothers: a qualitative study

Marie-Julia Guittier1235*, Christine Cedraschi4, Nasir Jamei12, Michel Boulvain2 and Francis Guillemin3

Author Affiliations

1 University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland, Geneva, Switzerland

2 Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Geneva University Hospitals and Faculty of Medicine, Geneva, Switzerland

3 Lorraine & Paris Descartes University, EA 4360 Apemac, Nancy, France

4 Divisions of General Medical Rehabilitation, Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology, Multidisciplinary Pain Centre, Geneva University Hospitals and Faculty of Medicine, Geneva, Switzerland

5 Professeure filière sage-femme, Haute Ecole de Santé, 47 Avenue de Champel, Geneva, 1206, Switzerland

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2014, 14:254  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-254

Published: 1 August 2014



The birth of a first child is an important event in a woman’s life. Delivery psychological impacts vary depending on whether delivery has been positively or negatively experienced. Delivery experience determinants have been identified but the understanding of their expression according to the mode of delivery is poorly documented. The purpose of the study was to determine important elements associated with women’s first delivery experience according to the mode of delivery: vaginal or caesarean section.


Qualitative approach using thematic content analysis of in-depth interviews conducted between 4 and 6 weeks’ postpartum, in 24 primiparous women who delivered at Geneva University Hospital in 2012.


Perceived control, emotions, and the first moments with the newborn are important elements for the experience of childbirth. Depending on the mode of delivery these are perceived differently, with a negative connotation in the case of caesarean section. Other elements influencing the delivery experience were identified among all participants, irrespective of the mode of delivery. They included representations, as well as the relationship with caregivers and the father in the delivery room, privacy, unexpected sensory experiences, and ownership of the maternal role. Women’s and health professionals’ representations sometimes led to a hierarchy based on the mode of delivery and use of analgesia.


The mode of delivery directly impacts on certain key delivery experience determinants as perceived control, emotions, and the first moments with the newborn. The ability/inability of the woman to imagine a second pregnancy is a good indicator of the birth experience. Certain health professional gestures or attitudes can promote a positive delivery experience. We recommend to better prepare women during prenatal classes for the eventuality of a caesarean section delivery and to offer all women and, possibly, their partners, the opportunity to talk about the experience of childbirth during the postpartum period. The results of this study suggest that further research is required on the social representations of women and health professionals regarding the existence of a hierarchy associated with the mode of delivery.

Mode of delivery; Delivery experience; Qualitative study; Caesarean section; Vaginal delivery