Dissertation Title:

The Lived Experience of Cesarean Birth: Cross-Cultural Perspectives


Elizabeth Wisniewski

Date, Time & Place:

October 3, 2022 at 1:00 pm


The origins of cesarean birth have a complicated history and mythology, from Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine born through cesarean birth, to modern advances in healthcare.  Yet there is much that remains unknown about the lived experience of this specific procedure.  Cesarean birth can be quantified and stratified by race and ethnicity and justified by comorbidity, but this does not mean that the procedure itself meets a person’s expectations for experience of care during delivery. An emerging area of literature speaks to the roles in the birth experience of disrespect and mistreatment, which can be traced back to the founding of obstetrics and gynecology.  Through a depth psychological, somatic, and cross-cultural lens, this study is designed to unveil and come into relationship with the contemporary lived experiences of cesarean birth in the United States of America.  The study utilized an interpretive phenomenological analysis methodology to explore the lived experience of cesarean birth from a cross-cultural perspective.  Birth stories were gathered from nine child bearers who have given birth via cesarean between 2011 and 2021, with special attention to themes of cultural variances in attitudes, experiences, and disrespectful treatment. Two rounds of individual, embodied interviews were conducted; the first being at approximately 90 minutes in length and the second round a 30-minute follow up. From the nine experiences of cesarean birth, four central themes emerged in the interviews: birth plan and choice, the liminal space, obstetric racism and disrespect, and being on the verge of vaginal delivery.

  • Program/Track/Year: Depth Psychology Emphasis in Somatic Studies, S, 2016
  • Chair: Dr. Fanny Brewster
  • Reader: Dr. Jonathan Erickson
  • External Reader: Dr. Robbie Davis-Floyd
  • Keywords: Birth, Cesarean Section, Cesarean Birth, Somatic Depth Psychology, Cross-cultural Perspectives, Storytelling