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A fear of childbirth increases time in labour

Wednesday, 27 June 2012 9:30 AM

Women who fear childbirth spend longer in labour than women who are not scared, suggests new research.

Between five and 20 per cent of pregnant women have a fear of childbirth, according to the Norwegian study.

The researchers found that women with a fear of childbirth spent one hour and 32 minutes longer in labour than women with no such fear. After adjustment for other factors associated with labour duration, such as having an epidural or the use of forceps, the difference was still significant at 47 minutes.

Average labour duration was eight hours for women with fear of childbirth compared to six hours and 28 minutes for women without fear.

The study also found that women with fear of childbirth more often delivered by instrumental vaginal delivery (17 per cent compared with 10.6 per cent) or emergency caesarean delivery (10.9 per cent versus 6.8 per cent) as compared to women without fear of childbirth.

In total, 25.5 per cent of women with fear of childbirth and 44.4 per cent of women without fear of childbirth had a vaginal delivery without any obstetric interventions.

However, despite increased labour duration for women with a fear of childbirth, a large proportion of women achieved a vaginal delivery which was their intention compared to women with no fear (89.1 per cent versus 93.2 per cent).

Samantha Salvesen Adams, from the University of Oslo, and co-author of the research said: “Fear of childbirth seems to be an increasingly important issue in obstetric care. Our finding of longer duration of labour in women who fear childbirth is a new piece in the puzzle within this intersection between psychology and obstetrics.

“However, it is important to note that a large proportion of women with a fear of childbirth successfully had a vaginal delivery and therefore elective caesarean delivery should not be routinely recommended.”

John Thorp, from the journal BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, which published the study, added: “There are a number of reasons why women may develop a fear of childbirth. This research shows that women with fear of childbirth are more likely to need obstetric intervention and this needs to be explored further so that obstetricians and midwives can provide the appropriate support and advice.”

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