Women’s satisfaction with childbirth experience is considered as one of the quality indicators of the maternity services across the world. However, there is no guideline for improving the experience of childbirth in Iran that is suitable for women with different cultural, economic, and social statuses. The aim of this study is to make recommendations for practice and propose a clinical guideline for improving the experience of women with vaginal births.
The study design was a mixed method study with a sequential explanatory approach consisting of three phases. The first phase of the study was a cross-sectional study to identify the predictors of traumatic vaginal childbirth experience among 800 primiparous women from Tabriz health centers who had vaginal birth. Data collection tools in this phase were Childbirth Experience Questionnaire (CEQ) and Support and Control in Birth (SCIB). Both tools were validated for Farsi language. The second phase was a qualitative study with 17 in-depth individual interviews among women who took part in the first phase to better understand their reasons that influenced their childbirth experience either positively or negatively. The third phase of the study was to develop recommendations for a proposed clinical guideline through a Delphi study where maternal health experts were selected and invited to take part in the panel. They first rated the proposed recommendations individually and provided written responses on their own agreement or disagreement with each statement in terms of its impact on childbirth experience, feasibility, acceptability, and cost-effectiveness. After three confirmation rounds, the final conscience was reached by the panel members.
The results of the quantitative phase showed that the probability of negative experience of childbirth was increased when physical exercise was not implemented during pregnancy, lacking pain relief options, having fear of childbirth, lacking skin to skin contact with the newborn and being unable to initiate breastfeeding in the first hour after birth (P < 0.05). The analysis of qualitative data revealed 13 major theme categories which were related to women’s sense of internal control, external control and support. In the third phase of the study, culturally appropriate recommendations were made and an evidence-based clinical guideline was proposed. The proposed guideline was based on the combination of the quantitative and qualitative phases, a review of the literature, and the opinions of Iranian experts using the Delphi technique.
Given the high prevalence of negative childbirth experience among Iranian primiparous women, the present study may be of great interest for managers, leaders, policymakers, and care providers to improve the quality of the maternity services. However, further studies are required to translate the recommendations into practice and identify enablers and barriers during the implementation of the proposed guideline. To adopt the recommendations at national level, there is a need to further studies to assess the effectiveness of the proposed guideline within different communities across the region and the country.