To explore and quantify perceptions and experiences of women with a traumatic childbirth experience, in order to identify areas for prevention and to help midwives and obstetricians improve woman centered care.


A retrospective survey was conducted online among 2192 women with a self-reported traumatic childbirth experience. Women were recruited in March 2016 through social media, including specific parent support groups. They filled out a 35-item questionnaire of which the most important items were (1) self-reported attributions of the trauma, and how they believe the traumatic experience could have been prevented (2) by the caregivers or (3) by themselves. 


The responses most frequently given were (1) lack and/or loss of control (54.6%), fear for baby’s health/life (49.9%), and high intensity of pain/ physical discomfort (47.4%), (2) communicate/explain (39.1%), listen to me (more) (36.9%) and support me (more/better) emotionally/practically (29.8%), and (3) nothing (37.0%), ask for (26.9%) or refuse (16.5%) certain interventions. Primiparous participants chose High intensity of pain/ physical discomfort, Long duration of delivery and Discrepancy between expectations and reality more often and Fear for own health/life, A bad outcome and Delivery went too fast less often than multiparous participants.

Women attribute their traumatic childbirth experience primarily to lack and/or loss of control, issues of communication and practical/emotional support. They believe that in many cases their trauma could have been reduced or prevented by better communication and support by their caregiver, or if they themselves had asked for or refused interventions.