OBJECTIVES: To assess the prevalence and current suffering of experienced abuse in healthcare, to present the socio-demographic background for women with a history of abuse in healthcare and to assess the association between abuse in healthcare and selected obstetric characteristics. DESIGN: Cross-sectional study. SETTING: Routine antenatal care in six European countries. POPULATION: In total 6923 pregnant women. METHODS: Cross-tabulation and Pearson's chi-square was used to study prevalence and characteristics for women reporting abuse in healthcare. Associations with selected obstetric factors were estimated using multiple logistic regression analysis. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Abuse in healthcare, fear of childbirth and preference for birth by cesarean section. RESULTS: One in five pregnant women attending routine antenatal care reported some lifetime abuse in healthcare. Prevalence varied significantly between the countries. Characteristics for women reporting abuse in healthcare included a significantly higher prevalence of other forms of abuse, economic hardship and negative life events as well as a lack of social support, symptoms of post-traumatic stress and depression. Among nulliparous women, abuse in healthcare was associated with fear of childbirth, adjusted odds ratio 2.25 (95% CI 1.23-4.12) for severe abuse in healthcare. For multiparous women only severe current suffering from abuse in healthcare was significantly associated with fear of childbirth, adjusted odds ratio 4.04 (95% CI 2.08-7.83). Current severe suffering from abuse in healthcare was significantly associated with the wish for cesarean section, and counselling for fear of childbirth for both nulli- and multiparous women. CONCLUSION: Abuse in healthcare among women attending routine antenatal care is common and for women with severe current suffering from abuse in healthcare, this is associated with fear of childbirth and a wish for cesarean section.