Objective this study aimed to explore factors associated with a negative childbirth experience including descriptions from women themselves. Design we performed a mixed methods study based on data from the Norwegian cohort of the Bidens study, including a total of 1352 multiparous women. Quantitative information was analysed in addition to thematic analysis of 103 free-text comments provided by women with a prior negative childbirth experience. Key findings the total prevalence of a negative birth experience was 21.1%. A negative experience was associated with fear of birth (AOR: 5.00 95% CI 3.40–7.23) and a history of abuse (AOR 1.34 95% CI 1.01–1.79) in multivariate analysis. Women who indicated they were para 2 were less likely or report a negative childbirth (AOR 0.66 95% CI 0.46–0.94). Three major themes were identified: ‘complications for mother, child or both’, ‘not being seen or heard’; and ‘experience of pain and loss of control’. The majority of respondents reported experiences of unexpected and dramatic complications during childbirth. Further, several of the respondents felt a lack of support, that they had not been treated with respect or included in decisions regarding their birth. A minority described pain and loss of control as the main reason for their negative birth experience. Conclusions and implications for practice comments by the women show that they were unprepared for complications and inadequate care during birth. The feeling of not being seen or heard during childbirth contributed to a negative experience. Midwives can use the information gained from this study to prevent negative birth experiences.
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