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Birth. 1994 Dec;21(4):213-20.

Labor experiences of childhood sexual abuse survivors.


This field study used the ethnographic method to describe and analyze the labor experiences of childhood sexual abuse survivors. The sample included seven sexual abuse survivors, five nurse-midwives, and three labor and delivery nurses. Data collection included in-depth interviews, participant observation in labor and delivery over a period of six years, and anecdotal material from the literature. Analysis followed Spradley's Developmental Research Sequence and included domain, taxonomic, componential and theme analysis. Women reported both forgetting and remembering abusive incidents, and described labor sensations reminiscent of sexual abuse. A heuristic for appraising labor styles suggestive of past sexual abuse includes fighting, taking control, surrendering, and retreating. These styles are considered extremes of women's reactions to labor and are directly linked to posttraumatic stress disorder. This study demonstrated that it is important for perinatal caregivers to understand the link between childhood sexual abuse and childbirth so that they can assist women to have a positive birth experience.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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