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Childbirth Today

Childbirth is the female equivalent of a war story: Once you’ve been through it, you never forget the details. But in spite of everything we hear about difficult labors, the vast majority of women have very satisfying memories of their deliveries, according to a new survey conducted by Harris Interactive for the Maternity Center Association (MCA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving maternity care, in partnership with the Johnson & Johnson Pediatric Institute.

Of the nearly 1,600 women surveyed around the country:

96 percent say they’re satisfied with the health care they received
94 percent feel they were treated with kindness and understanding
87 percent say they were free to make their own decisions

Here’s what’s happening in the birthing suite that’s made labor and delivery such a rewarding experience for so many women:

Who helps out

The happiest moms get physical and emotional support during labor and delivery from a cast of people  -- including friends, relatives, and nurses  -- but dads seem to give most of this comfort:

Doulas and midwives have a slight edge over dads when it comes to the quality of care provided. "If you’re very motivated to have a low-intervention birth, or if you think your partner won’t be particularly helpful, a doula can be wonderful," says Lauren Streicher, M.D., an ob-gyn at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, in Chicago. "But if you have an involved partner, know you want an epidural, and are at a hospital that provides one-on-one nursing, you don’t really need one." No matter who provides comfort, it’s crucial. While 82 percent of the women surveyed report that they felt alert during labor and 77 percent felt capable, nearly half were overwhelmed and 39 percent were frightened.  

92 percent got support from their partner or husband
83 percent from the nursing staff
53 percent from a doctor
50 percent from another family member or a friend
11 percent from a midwife
5 percent from a doula