Informal coercion during childbirth: risk factors and prevalence estimates from a nationwide survey of women in Switzerland

Oelhafen, Stephan; Trachsel, Manuel; Monteverde, Settimio; Raio, Luigi; Cignacco Müller, Eva (2021). Informal coercion during childbirth: risk factors and prevalence estimates from a nationwide survey of women in Switzerland BMC Health Services Research, 21(1), pp. 1-13. Springer Nature 10.1186/s12884-021-03826-1

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Background: In many countries, the increase in facility births is accompanied by a high rate of obstetric interventions. Lower birthrates or elevated risk factors such as women’s higher age at childbirth and an increased need for control and security cannot entirely explain this rise in obstetric interventions. Another possible factor is that women are coerced to agree to interventions, but the prevalence of coercive interventions in Switzerland is unknown. Methods: In a nationwide cross-sectional online survey, we assessed the prevalence of informal coercion during childbirth, women’s satisfaction with childbirth, and the prevalence of women at risk of postpartum depression. Women aged 18 years or older who had given birth in Switzerland within the previous 12 months were recruited online through Facebook ads or through various offline channels. We used multivariable logistic regression to estimate the risk ratios associated with multiple individual and contextual factors. Results: In total, 6054 women completed the questionnaire (a dropout rate of 16.2%). An estimated 26.7% of women experienced some form of informal coercion during childbirth. As compared to vaginal delivery, cesarean section (CS) and instrumental vaginal birth were associated with an increased risk of informal coercion (planned CS risk ratio [RR]: 1.52, 95% confidence interval [1.18,1.96]; unplanned CS RR: 1.92 [1.61,2.28]; emergency CS RR: 2.10 [1.71,2.58]; instrumental vaginal birth RR: 2.17 [1.85,2.55]). Additionally, migrant women (RR: 1.45 [1.26,1.66]) and women for whom a self-determined vaginal birth was more important (RR: 1.15 [1.06,1.24]) more often reported informal coercion. Emergency cesarean section (RR: 1.32 [1.08,1.62]), being transferred to hospital (RR: 1.33 [1.11, 1.60]), and experiencing informal coercion (RR: 1.35 [1.19,1.54]) were all associated with a higher risk of postpartum depression. Finally, women who had a non-instrumental vaginal birth reported higher satisfaction with childbirth while women who experienced informal coercion reported lower satisfaction. Conclusions: One in four women experience informal coercion during childbirth, and this experience is associated with a higher risk of postpartum depression and lower satisfaction with childbirth. To prevent traumatic after- effects, health care professionals should make every effort to prevent informal coercion and to ensure sensitive aftercare for all new mothers.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


School of Health Professions > Midwifery


Oelhafen, Stephan0000-0002-4238-6728;
Trachsel, Manuel;
Monteverde, Settimio0000-0002-7041-2663;
Raio, Luigi and
Cignacco Müller, Eva0000-0001-6773-4015


B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics




Springer Nature


[UNSPECIFIED] Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences ; [UNSPECIFIED] Käthe-Zingg-Schwichtenberg-Fonds ; [UNSPECIFIED] Lindenhof Foundation Bern


Jean Anthony Grand-Guillaume-Perrenoud

Date Deposited:

26 May 2021 11:49

Last Modified:

26 May 2021 11:49

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Coercion, Informal coercion, Childbirth, Switzerland, Survey, Mode of delivery, Mistreatment, Disrespect, Abuse




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