Childbirth is a pivotal event for many women, and evidence suggests that women possess strong expectations regarding this experience. In a longitudinal study of 330 Israeli first-time mothers, we distinguished between physical, emotional, and cognitive factors and used them to assess the underlying mechanism of satisfaction, based on theoretical frameworks of stress and control. Women completed questionnaires during pregnancy and two months postpartum. The negative association between a more medicalized birth and birth satisfaction was partially mediated by perceived control. In turn, specific emotions mediated the association between perceived control and satisfaction: Greater perceived control over the birth environment predicted more positive emotions, less fear, and better perceived care; while greater perceived control over the birth process predicted more positive emotions, less fear, and less guilt. Greater incongruence between the planned and actual birth experience predicted lower satisfaction, mediated by perceived care and feelings of guilt. This investigation unraveled the association between women’s lived birth experience and their birth satisfaction. The findings underscore the value of helping women achieve satisfying births by discussing their expectations with them, providing them with experiences that meet their needs, and supporting those with a gap between their expectations and experience. Respecting individual preferences while lowering blame may improve women’s health and well-being. Additional online materials for this article are available on PWQ’s website at http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/suppl/10.1177/0361684318779537.
Psychology of Women Quarterly – SAGE
Published: Mar 1, 2019
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