A Swedish study has found that both mothers and fathers link a negative birth experience to a long labour and also to an emergency caesarean. For mothers (but not fathers), having an elective caesarean is also linked to a more negative birth experience, as well has having obstetrical analgesia and oxytocin augmentation.
The study involved 928 mothers and 818 fathers of babies up to 2 months old. 6% of the mothers and 3% of the fathers reported negative birth experiences. Fathers described feelings of panic, pain and helplessness.
The researchers conclude that midwives should give both mothers and fathers the opportunity to process negative birth experiences, both together and individually. The tendency for some fathers to hide their feelings and act strong for their partners needs to be taken into account.
The researchers argue that offering support post-birth is important because of the link between negative birth experiences and later fear of childbirth. In Sweden, only mothers are offered counselling if they report fear of childbirth, though the impact of this counselling has been found to be very little.
Nystedt A & Hildingsson I (2018), Women’s and men’s negative experience of child birth – a cross-sectional survey, Women and Birth 31