Developing a woman‐centered, inclusive definition of positive childbirth experiences: A discussion paper

Leinweber, Julia, Fontein‐Kuipers, Yvonne, Karlsdottir, Sigfridur Inga, Ekström‐Bergström, Anette, Nilsson, Christina, Stramrood, Claire and Thomson, Gillian orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-3392-8182 (2022) Developing a woman‐centered, inclusive definition of positive childbirth experiences: A discussion paper. Birth . ISSN 0730-7659

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A positive childbirth experience promotes women’s health, both during and beyond the perinatal period. Understanding what constitutes a positive childbirth experience is thus critical to providing high-quality maternity care. Currently, there is no clear, inclusive, woman-centered definition of a positive childbirth experience to guide practice, education, and research.

To formulate an inclusive woman-centered definition of a positive childbirth experience.

A six-step process was undertaken: (a) Key concepts associated with a positive childbirth were derived from a rapid literature review; (b) The key concepts were used by interdisciplinary experts in the author group to create a draft definition; (c) The draft definition was presented to clinicians and researchers during a European research meeting on perinatal mental health; (d) The authors integrated the expert feedback to refine the working definition; (e) A revised definition was shared with women from consumer groups in six countries to confirm its face validity; and (f) A final definition was formulated based on the women’s feedback (n = 42).

The following definition was formulated: “A positive childbirth experience refers to a woman’s experience of interactions and events directly related to childbirth that made her feel supported, in control, safe, and respected; a positive childbirth can make women feel joy, confident, and/or accomplished and may have short and/or long-term positive impacts on a woman’s psychosocial well-being.”

This inclusive, woman-centered definition highlights the importance of provider interactions for facilitating a positive childbirth experience. Feeling supported and having a sense of control, safety, and respect are central tenets. This definition could help to identify and validate positive childbirth experience(s), and to inform practice, education, research, advocacy, and policy-making.

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