Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) has widespread and long-lasting impact on women’s lives and health. Increased knowledge and deeper understanding are needed of survivors’ experiences of the childbearing process, health and motherhood.
In this phenomenological study, 16 in-depth interviews were conducted with nine female CSA survivors. The interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim and thematically analysed.
The overarching theme of the study is: ‘more understanding is needed’, which refers to the participants’ experience that greater understanding is needed from health professionals of the long-term effects of CSA on childbearing women. Most of the women had suffered from poor health, especially chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia and gynaecological diseases. All of them had suffered mental health consequences particularly anxiety, depression and PTSD. The majority had experienced flashbacks to the violence and disassociation. Many had experienced miscarriages, had deviations from normal pregnancies and births, such as prolonged labour, caesarean sections, induction of labour, vacuum extraction, bleeding and exaggerated pregnancy problems, such as great nausea and pelvic pain. All but one had a negative experience in one of their births. All of them had experienced a lack of understanding in the healthcare system, perceived abuse of power and felt vulnerable in those situations. All of them had a strong need for a sense of control and participation in decision-making in the childbearing process. Most of them had experienced problems in bonding with their children and some have had difficulties touching them. All of them were in dire need of protecting their children from potential violence and many expressed a tendency to overprotect them.
Healthcare professionals need to have more knowledge and greater understanding of how healthcare services can be improved so that CSA survivors can have a better experience of the childbearing process.

© 2021 Nordic College of Caring Science.