Vaginal birth after caesarean section: why is uptake so low? Insights from a meta-ethnographic synthesis of women’s accounts of their birth choices

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Objective: To identify what women report influences their preferred mode of birth after caesarean section.

Design: Systematic review of qualitative literature using meta-ethnography.

Data sources: Medline, EMBASE, ASSIA, CINAHL and PsycINFO (1996 until April 2013; updated September 2015). Hand-searched journals, reference lists and abstract authors.

Study selection: Primary qualitative studies reporting women’s accounts of what influenced their preferred mode of birth after caesarean section.

Data extraction and synthesis: Primary data (quotations from study participants) and authors’ interpretations of these were extracted, compared and contrasted between studies, and grouped into themes to support the development of a ‘line of argument’ synthesis.

Results: 20 papers reporting the views of 507 women from four countries were included. Distinctive clusters of influences were identified for each of three groups of women. Women who confidently sought vaginal birth after a caesarean section were typically driven by a long-standing anticipation of vaginal birth. Women who sought a repeat caesarean section were strongly influenced by distressing previous birth experiences, and at times, by encouragement from social contacts.
Women who were more open to information and professional guidance had fewer strong preconceptions and concerns, and viewed a range of considerations as potentially important.

Conclusions: Women’s attitudes towards birth after caesarean section appear to be shaped by distinct clusters of influences, suggesting that opportunities exist for clinicians to stratify and personalise decision support by addressing relevant ideas, concerns and experiences from the first caesarean section birth onwards.
Original languageEnglish
Article number008881
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2016


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