Negative childbirth experiences linked to lower birth rates

1 min read
September 29, 2023
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In recent research spearheaded by Johanna Joensuu, MSc, the quality of childbirth experiences at the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS) from 2012 to 2018 was explored in detail.

The findings indicate a moderate decline in positive childbirth experiences in Finland during this timeframe.

“While we’ve seen a slight uptick in negative childbirth accounts, it’s essential to recognize that a significant majority of mothers in Finland still view their childbirth experiences favorably,” highlights Joensuu.

Breaking it down:

  • 40% of first-time mothers regarded their experience as very positive.
  • Among mothers who had given birth before, 60% echoed this sentiment.
  • Conversely, only 10% of first-time mothers and 4% of experienced mothers assessed their childbirth negatively.

The scope of this study is extensive, encompassing over 120,000 deliveries. This represents nearly a third of all births in Finland between 2012 and 2018.

Impact on Future Births

The research underscores the implications of negative childbirth experiences on future family planning decisions. Specifically, women with unfavorable childbirth experiences showed a 20% reduced probability of having another child during the seven years after their initial birth. Furthermore, those with negative experiences had an average gap of 1.4 years between births than their counterparts with positive experiences.

Joensuu points to a demographic challenge: “With over half of first-time mothers now over the age of 30, prolonged intervals between births due to poor experiences can complicate fertility.”

Root Causes

Several factors may contribute to this downturn in positive experiences. Joensuu believes cuts in birthing classes and evolving structures in maternity services play a part. The study also draws a link between negative childbirth experiences and labor inductions. However, Joensuu notes, “Inductions typically have a valid medical basis, which could predispose some mothers to more challenging childbirth experiences.”

The Path Forward

According to Joensuu, the road to improvement lies in delivering exemplary care. She emphasizes that childbirth is unpredictable by nature, making offering robust and confidence-inspiring preparation classes even more crucial. It’s equally important to consider the wishes of the expecting mother during delivery.

Addressing and processing negative experiences with trained professionals post-delivery can also curb long-term repercussions.

Concluding her findings, Joensuu states, “Given that our birth rate is currently the lowest in recent memory, enhancing the childbirth experience is a tangible avenue we can focus on to make a difference.”

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