The most consistently noted difference between unplanned cesarean and vaginal births is patient dissatisfaction or regret. This has been explored in multiple quantitative studies. However, the causes of this dissatisfaction remain elusive as a result of the limitations of survey instruments that restrict possible choices.


Using open‐ended, semi‐structured interviews (n = 14), the purpose of this study was to identify potentially alterable factors that contribute to cesarean section regret when the surgery is performed during labor. In interviews that took place between 2 and 6 weeks postpartum, patients who had undergone an unscheduled cesarean birth during labor and had volunteered for the study were asked to share the story of their birth. Each participant was prompted to describe her understanding of the indication for her cesarean, and reflect on what felt positive and negative about her experience. Using consensus coding, three investigators independently evaluated the transcribed interviews, identifying recurring themes that were then discussed until consensus on the major themes was achieved.


Four key themes emerged from patients’ unplanned cesarean narratives: poor communication, fear of the operating room, distrust of the medical team, and loss of control. Lack of or incomplete trust in care providers was a new factor not previously recognized as a cause of distress or dissatisfaction in the literature to date.


The four factors identified in this study are all potentially ameliorable, suggesting that changes in physician behavior may reduce patient dissatisfaction with unplanned cesarean birth.

Find the full study

Subscription only. To request a copy, contact us here


Burcher, P., M. Cheyney K. Li, S. Hushmendy, and K. Kiley. (2016). Cesarean Birth Regret and Dissatisfaction: A Qualitative Approach. Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care 43(4): 346-352.