Severe recalled labor pain and elective cesarean section in a subsequent delivery: a cohort study of Norwegian parous women

Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2021 Sep;100(9):1678-1687. doi: 10.1111/aogs.14212. Epub 2021 Aug 2.


Introduction: Some women keep on recalling intense labor pain experienced at childbirth to a degree that may negatively affect their life during the postpartum period or lead them to request a cesarean section (CS) in the subsequent delivery. This longitudinal study aimed to assess the impact of severe recalled labor pain from the previous birth on the preference for and delivery by an elective CS in the subsequent delivery. Furthermore, we investigated whether co-occurring maternal demographic, somatic and mental health factors related to the previous and subsequent delivery, explain parts of a potential association.

Material and methods: The study sample comprised 1135 parous women from the Akershus Birth Cohort. Severe recalled labor pain was assessed on a numeric rating scale at pregnancy week 17, and at pregnancy week 32, the preference for an elective CS for the subsequent delivery was assessed. Information on actual delivery by elective CS in the subsequent delivery was retrieved from the electronic birth record. Logistic regression analyses were conducted to examine the impact of severe recalled labor pain on elective CS.

Results: Severe recalled labor pain at the previous birth was associated with a preference for an elective CS (odds ratio [OR] 3.57, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.25-5.67) and actual delivery by elective CS (OR 4.71, 95% CI 2.32-9.59). This association remained statistically significant for the preference for an elective CS (adjusted OR [aOR] 2.12, 95% CI 1.24-3.62) but diminished for delivery by elective CS (aOR 2.30, 95% CI 0.99-5.35) when adjusting for a variety of covariates. Factors related to previous childbirth such as number of years since previous birth, assisted vaginal delivery, anal sphincter lesions, overall birth experience and fear of childbirth were also linked to preference for and delivery by an elective CS.

Conclusions: Women with severe recalled labor pain were about twice as likely to prefer an elective CS compared with women without severe recalled pain. For actual delivery, the significant association with severe recalled pain diminished after adjustment for covariates. However, sample size was small and, irrespective of severe recalled labor pain, preference for an elective CS was statistically significantly associated with actual delivery by elective CS.

Keywords: birth; cesarean section; delivery; labor pain; preference; recall.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cesarean Section*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Elective Surgical Procedures*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Labor Pain / psychology*
  • Norway
  • Parity
  • Patient Preference*
  • Pregnancy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires