The childbirth experience: A systematic review of predictors and outcomes

Giliane McKelvin, Gillian Thomson, Soo Downe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
222 Downloads (Pure)


Birth is often viewed as a pathological event, consequently, there has been an increase in literature focusing on predictors, experience and implications of traumatic childbirth and childbirth-related posttraumatic stress. However, to fully understand childbirth experiences a salutogenic perspective is required. This enables an understanding of what facilitates a positive childbirth experience besides what places women at risk of experiencing traumatic childbirth.

To identify the psychosocial factors that could contribute to or be influenced by women’s subjective accounts of childbirth.

An in-depth literature search across four databases was undertaken. Quality appraisal based on internal and external validity was conducted and a combined numerical summary and categorical description were undertaken.

Nineteen papers were included in the review and the variables grouped into three categories. The variables relate to ‘Measures of labour and birth experience’ (discussing the impact of events and perceptions during labour and birth). The second category discusses how ‘support and relationships’ can potentially shape the birth experience or be altered by it and finally, ‘Psychological variables: influence and impact’ is examined extensively.

The results of the review highlight significant contradictory evidence of what influences birth experiences. The findings confirm the dearth of available literature concerning positive birth experiences and most variables identified were pathogenic. This review suggests that such factors for PTSD may differ from those that influence birth experiences and should be examined separately. An enhanced understanding of the range of experiences is required to support women’s rights in achieving a positive birth.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWomen and Birth
Early online date7 Oct 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Oct 2020


  • Systematic review
  • Childbirth experience
  • Childbirth
  • Psychological
  • trauma


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