Objective: To summarize what is known about satisfaction with childbirth, with particular attention to the roles of pain and pain relief.
Study design: A systematic review of 137 reports of factors influencing women's evaluations of their childbirth experiences. The reports included descriptive studies, randomized controlled trials, and systematic reviews of intrapartum interventions. Results were summarized qualitatively.
Results: Four factors-personal expectations, the amount of support from caregivers, the quality of the caregiver-patient relationship, and involvement in decision making-appear to be so important that they override the influences of age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, childbirth preparation, the physical birth environment, pain, immobility, medical interventions, and continuity of care, when women evaluate their childbirth experiences.
Conclusion: The influences of pain, pain relief, and intrapartum medical interventions on subsequent satisfaction are neither as obvious, as direct, nor as powerful as the influences of the attitudes and behaviors of the caregivers.