While mothers are generally a brave lot, the prospect of becoming mothers – specifically childbirth – terrifies some women. And a study out this summer shows that these women tend to spend longer in labor than women approaching delivery without fear.
Norwegian researchers surveyed more than 2,200 women pregnant with a single child who intended to deliver vaginally. In response to a questionnaire, they determined that around 7.5% of the women had fear of childbirth.
When the women had their babies, those with a fear of childbirth labored more than 90 minutes longer on average than those who were not afraid. Even when researchers accounted for factors such as whether the women had previously given birth, epidural analgesia, instrumental vaginal delivery and labor induction, women with fear still labored an average of 47 minutes longer.
Overall, average labor lasted 8 hours for women with fear of childbirth, and 6 hours and 28 minutes for women without. Women with fear of childbirth were also more likely to have their babies delivered by instrumental vaginal delivery or emergency cesarean.
Fear of childbirth has been attributed to young maternal age, being a first-time mother, pre-existing psychological issues, lack of social support and a history of abuse.
Experts say the connection between fear of childbirth, longer labor, and increased risk of obstetrical interventions needs to be explored further, so doctors and midwives can give pregnant women the support and advice they need. The study was published June 27 in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.