A comparison of Israeli Jewish and Arab women's birth perceptions Academic Article uri icon


  • Background Birth is a normal physiological process, but can also be experienced as a traumatic event. Israeli Jewish and Arab women share Israeli residency, citizenship and universal access to the Israeli medical system. However, language, religion, values, customs, symbols, and lifestyle differ between the groups. Objectives To examine Israeli Arab and Jewish women's perceptions of their birth experience, and to assess the extent to which childbirth details and perceptions predict satisfaction with the birth experience and the extent of assessing the childbirth as traumatic. Methods This study was conducted in two postpartum units of two major public hospitals in the northern part of Israel. The sample included 171 respondents, including 115 Jewish Israeli and 56 Arab Israeli women who gave birth to their first (33%) or second (67%) child. Respondents described their childbirth experiences using a self-report questionnaire 24–48 hours after delivery. Results The Arab women were much less likely to attend childbirth preparation classes than the Jewish women (5% vs. 24%). Forty-three percent of the respondents reported feeling helpless, and 68% reported feeling lack of control during delivery. Twenty percent of the women rated their childbirth experience as traumatic, a rate much lower than the rate of medical indicators of traumatic birth (39%). The rate of self- reported traumatic birth was significantly higher among the Arab women than the Jewish women (32% vs. 14%). A higher percentage of the Arab women reported being afraid during labor (χ²=4.97, p<.05), expressed fear for their newborn's safety (χ²=12.44, p<.001), and reported that the level of medical intervention was excessive in their opinion, as compared to the Jewish women (χ²=5.09, p<.05; χ²=7.33, p<.01). However, both the Arab and Jewish women reported similar numbers of medical interventions and levels of satisfaction with their medical treatment. Conclusions: Despite universal access to the Israeli health care system, Arab Israeli women use fewer perinatal medical resources and subjectively report more birth trauma than Jewish Israeli women. Yet, they give birth in the same hospitals with the same practitioners and report similarly high levels of satisfaction with the medical services. Taking into account that perceptions of the birth experience differ between ethno-cultural groups will enable professionals to better tailor intervention and support throughout delivery in order to increase satisfaction and minimize trauma from the experience.

publication date

  • January 1, 2014