BACKGROUND To investigate birth experience and medical outcome in women with elective cesarean section (CS) compared with women with intended vaginal delivery. METHODS A total of 1050 pregnant women were included in this prospective trial. Psychological factors, pain levels and birth experience were investigated using a self-designed questionnaire and three established psychological tests in gestational week 38, and 3 days and 4 months postpartum. In addition, medical data were evaluated from the records. RESULTS Out of 903 women with planned vaginal birth, in 484 women (53.6%) minimal perineal surgery had to be performed after birth, 41 women (4.5%) had vacuum deliveries, and in 93 cases (10.3%) emergency CS had to be performed. In the 147 elective CS (103 based on medical and 44 on psychological factors), a significantly lower rate of maternal and fetal complications was observed when compared with vaginal birth (5.4% vs. 19.3%; p < 0.0001). Birth experience (Salmon test) was significantly better in elective CS compared with vaginal delivery, but worse in women with emergency CS and worst in those with vacuum delivery. We found that 83.5% of women with vaginal delivery would choose the same mode of birth again, 74.3% of women with CS on demand, and 66% of women with medically necessary CS. Only 30.1% of women with emergency CS wanted to receive CS at the next birth. CONCLUSIONS Elective CS is a safe and psychologically well tolerated procedure. The results are comparable with uncomplicated vaginal delivery and far superior to secondary intervention such as vacuum delivery or emergency CS.
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