Background: Little research has been conducted to date on women's postnatal emotional well-being and satisfaction with the care received in the Netherlands. The aim of this study was to investigate Dutch women's views of their birth experience 3 years after the event.
Methods: A questionnaire was mailed to all women who had given birth in 2001 and who had at least one prenatal, perinatal, or postnatal visit to the participating midwifery practice. Women who had a subsequent birth after the index birth in 2001 were not excluded. We specifically asked respondents to reflect on the birth that occurred in 2001. Women were asked to say how they felt now looking back on their labor and birth, with five response options from "very happy" to "very unhappy."
Results: We received 1,309 postnatal questionnaires (response rate 44%). The sample was fairly representative with respect to the mode of delivery, place of birth, and obstetric interventions compared with the total Dutch population of pregnant women; however, the sample was not representative for ethnicity and initial caregiver. Three years after delivery, most women looked back positively on their birth experience, but more than 16 percent looked back negatively. More than 1 in 5 primiparas looked back negatively compared with 1 in 9 multiparas. Adjusted odds ratios (OR) for looking back negatively 3 years later included having had an assisted vaginal delivery or unplanned cesarean delivery (OR 2.6, 95% CI 1.59-4.14), no home birth (OR 1.4, 95% CI 1.04-1.93), referral during labor (OR 2.4, 95% CI 1.48-3.77), not having had a choice in pain relief (OR 2.9, 95% CI 1.91-4.45), not being satisfied in coping with pain (OR 4.9, 95% CI 2.55-9.40), a negative description of the caregivers (OR 2.9, 95% CI 1.85-4.40), or having had fear for the baby's life or her own life (OR 2.3, 95% CI 1.47-3.48).
Conclusions: A substantial proportion of Dutch women looked back negatively on their birth experience 3 years postpartum. Further research needs to be undertaken to understand women's expectations and experiences of birth within the Dutch maternity system and an examination of maternity care changes designed to reduce or modify controllable factors that are associated with negative recall.