BACKGROUND A negative birth experience may influence both women and men and can limit their process of becoming a parent. AIMS This study aimed to analyze and describe women's and men's perceptions and experiences of childbirth. DESIGN A cross-sectional study of women and their partners living in one Swedish county were recruited in mid pregnancy and followed up two months after birth. Women (n=928) and men (n=818) completed the same questionnaire that investigated new parents' birth experiences in relation to socio-demographic background and birth related variables. RESULTS Women (6%) and men (3%) with a negative birth experiences, experienced longer labours and more often emergency caesarean section compared to women (94%) and men (97%) with a positive birth experience. The obstetric factors that contributed most strongly to a negative birth experience were emergency caesarean and was found in women (OR 4.7, 95% CI 2.0-10.8) and men (OR 4.5, Cl 95% 1.4-17.3). In addition, pain intensity and elective caesarean section were also associated with a negative birth experiences in women. Feelings during birth such as agreeing with the statement; 'It was a pain to give birth' were a strong contributing factor for both women and men. CONCLUSIONS A negative birth experience is associated with obstetric factors such as emergency caesarean section and negative feelings. The content of negative feelings differed between women and men. It is important to take into account that their feelings differ in order to facilitate the processing of the negative birth experience for both partners.