A recent study has revealed that women who have a fear of childbirth tend to be in labor longer than women who don’t have that fear. Research that was published in the June 27 edition of BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reveal these findings.
In general, somewhere between 5 and 20 percent of all pregnant women have a fear of childbirth. A variety of factors come into play that determines this fear, including being a first-time mother, young maternal age, lack of social support, adverse obstetric events, a history of abuse and preexisting psychological conditions.
How Was Fear of Childbirth Determined in the Study?
The study, which was conducted by researchers in Norway, took a look at 2,206 women who were pregnant with single fetuses and who planned to deliver their babies vaginally. The women were all due to give birth at a Norwegian hospital between 2008 and 2010. The fear of giving birth was assessed by the Wijma Delivery Expectancy Questionnaire. Women took the questionnaire when they were at 32 weeks of pregnancy. If they resulted in a score greater than 85, it determined that they were fearful of childbirth. Out of the 2,206 women who were part of the study, 165 or 7.5 percent of the women got a score of 85 or higher.
Average Length of Labor
On average, the women who were found to have a fear of giving birth endured a longer labor than those who didn’t have that fear. The study researchers learned that the average amount of time for the fearful women’s labor to last was 47 minutes longer. Women without the childbirth fear spent an average of 6.46 hours in labor.
Overall, those who feared childbirth were also more likely to need the assistance of an instrument during vaginal deliveries or an emergency cesarean section to deliver their babies. Those women accounted for 10.9 percent as opposed to the women who were not fearful of childbirth.
In an interesting note, 89 percent of the fearful mothers to be were still able to vaginally deliver their babies with or without assistance. This number is very close to the 93 percent of women who didn’t feel fearful of childbirth, who were all able to deliver their children vaginally.
What Causes Longer Labor?
The researchers believed that the reason that women fearful of childbirth had difficulty delivering their babies is because fear and anxiety can increase hormones in the blood known as catecholamines. The hormones can have an adverse effect on the uterus and weaken its ability to contract, something that is necessary in order to give birth.
In addition to catecholamines, another factor was determined to lead to longer labor. According to the researchers, poor communications between the pregnant woman and her doctor could play a part in the length of her labor and in the need for instruments or emergency cesareans to deliver a baby.
The researchers stated that counseling for pregnancy concerns could be a great help to women who have a fear of giving birth. It could reduce their anxiety and even help to improve their communication skills, something that is extremely important when they have to regularly see doctors during the course of their pregnancies.