About "Listening to Mothers"

The "Listening to MothersR" surveys are the first and second national surveys about women's pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum experiences in the U.S. and are the initiative of Childbirth Connection. 

Childbirth Connection, a national not-for-profit organization since 1918, considers the "Listening to Mothers" surveys to be landmark research for understanding and improving women's maternal experiences in the U.S. The information from the surveys was otherwise not available from existing databases or had not been investigated at the national level. The datasets facilitate comparisons of actual experiences of U.S. mothers and their infants to their preferred experiences, to care to which they are legally entitled, to care supported by best evidence, and to optimal outcomes. The information and recommendations from the "Listening to MothersR" survey have been cited by various researchers and health care providers as a rationale for improving maternity policy, practice, education, and research in the U.S. (Lowe, 2007; Public Advocate for the City of New York, 2006; Sakala & Corry, 2008; Sakala, Declercq, & Corry, 2002; Young, 2006). 

The survey questionnaires and full reports are publicly available at their website: http://www.childbirthconnection.org . 

For example, the "Listening to MothersR" survey revealed the following information about U.S. women's childbirth experiences in 2005:

  • Frequencies of medical interventions: electronic fetal monitoring (94%), intravenous drip (83%), epidural or spinal analgesia (76%), one or more vaginal exams (75%), urinary catheter (56%), membranes broken after labor began (47%), and synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin) to speed up labor (47%). 
  • Nearly all mothers (96%) reported having received supportive care (comfort, emotional support, information) while in labor from at least one person, most often husbands/partners or the nursing staff. 
  • Information sources: First-time mothers sought knowledge from books (33%), friends and relatives (19%), their provider (18%) and the Internet (16%), while experienced mothers relied on their past experience (48%), followed by their doctor or midwife (18%), the Internet (13%) and books (12%).
(Quotes from LTM-II Press Release)

Moreover, about half of the participant women also participated in a follow-up survey six months later to share their later postpartum and employment experiences. The "New Mothers Speak Out" report includes: 

  • 63% of the women experienced some degree of depressive symptoms, and 18% appeared to be experiencing some symptoms of post-traumatic stress with reference to their childbirth experiences 
  • At 6 months or more, many women continued to experience those problems, including stress (43% of all mothers), weight control (40%), sleep loss (34%), lack of sexual desire (26%), physical exhaustion (25%), backache (24%), and pain at incision site (18% of cesarean mothers). 
  • Among women who had returned to paid work, 84% were back within 12 weeks of giving birth. 
  • Mothers with husbands or partners had disproportionate responsibility for child care, even when employed full time: 49% of mothers employed full time provided more child care, versus 3% of their husbands or partners, while 48% of those couples shared child care equally.
(Quotes from NMSO Quick Facts)

Cross-national comparisons will facilitate mutual learning between the U.S. and Japan. Although meaningful statistical testing was not possible due to the small sample used in the tool development study, using a Japanese translation of the "Listening to MothersR-II", preliminary findings highlighted the commonalities and differences of childbirth experiences between U.S. and Japanese women. 

Partial excerpts from "Listening to women's childbirth experiences" in Child Research Net. 

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<Examples of Publications Based on the U.S. "Listening to Mothers" Surveys> Link to full list: Childbirth Connection "Publications Using Listening to Mothers Survey Data"

  • Declercq, E. & Chalmers, B. (2008). Mothers’ reports of their maternity experiences in the USA and Canada. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 26, 4, 295-308.
  • Declercq, E., Cunningham, D. K., Johnson, C., & Sakala, C. (2008). Mothers' reports of postpartum pain associated with vaginal and cesarean deliveries: Results of a national survey. Birth, 35, 16-24.
  • Lowe, N. K. (2007). Highlights of Listening to Mothers II Survey. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing, 36, 1-2.
  • Public Advocate for the City of New York. (2006). Giving birth in the dark: City hospitals still failing to provide legally mandated maternity information. New York: Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum.
  • Sakala, C. & Corry, M. P. (2008). Evidence-based maternity care: What it is and what it can achieve New York: Milbank Memorial Fund.
  • Sakala, C. (2006). Carol Sakala's letter from North America: An uncontrolled experiment: - Elective delivery predominates in the United States. Birth, 33, 332-335.
  • Sakala, C., Declercq, E. R., & Corry, M. P. (2002). Listening to Mothers: The first national U.S. survey of women's childbearing experiences. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing, 31, 633-634.
  • Young, R. L. & Declercq, E. (2010). Implications of subdividing marital status: Are unmarried mothers with partners different from unmarried mothers without partners? An exploratory analysis. Maternal Child Health Journal, 14, 209-214.