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A Meta-Synthesis of Women's Experiences of Cesarean Birth

Puia, Denise MSN, RNC

MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing: January/February 2013 - Volume 38 - Issue 1 - p 41–47
doi: 10.1097/NMC.0b013e31826aa855

Purpose: The cesarean birth rate has increased dramatically over the past 10 years. With such a large number of women having a cesarean birth, it is important to understand the woman's experience of a cesarean birth and postoperative recovery. A meta-synthesis was conducted to allow for a deeper interpretation of prior qualitative research findings and thus produce a more comprehensive understanding of women's emotional and physical needs when having a cesarean birth.

Method: Qualitative studies that were published between 2000 and 2010 and were about women's experiences with cesarean births were eligible. A meta-synthesis of 10 qualitative studies was conducted. The studies created a combined sample of 3,721 nulliparous and multiparous women, 16 to 43 years of age.

Results: The following six overarching themes emerged: scared to death, in your hands, out of control, broken body and soul, empty heart and arms, and shattered dreams.

Clinical Implications: It is important for healthcare professionals to realize women experience similar physical and emotional difficulties irrespective of whether the cesarean was emergent or planned. The overarching themes of (a) in your hands and (b) scared to death reveal the importance of assessing the woman's level of knowledge about cesarean birth throughout the pregnancy so misconceptions can be rectified and correct information can be provided. Healthcare professionals need to be aware of the differences in perspectives about the care provided.

A meta-synthesis was conducted to gain a comprehensive understanding of women's emotional and physical needs when having a cesarean birth.

Denise Puia is a Doctoral Student at University of Connecticut School of Nursing, Storrs, CT. She can be reached via e-mail at

The author has declared that there are no conflicts of interest and source of funding related to this article.

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.