Fear of childbirth complicates labour, says study

Women worried about giving birth prolong labour by 90 minutes

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New research has been published on the link between the way worry over childbirth affects the process, reports Sciencedaily.com.

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Researchers at the University of Oslo studied 2,206 first-time pregnant women who intended to deliver vaginally and found that women who were frightened spent an hour- and-a-half longer giving birth and were more likely to need an instrumental vaginal delivery or emergency caesarean.

The researchers said women who are scared release adrenaline, which stops the muscles in the womb contracting properly.

The average labour for a woman who wasn’t frightened was 6 and a half hours, extending to 8 hours for women who were frightened. Their fear was assessed by an Expectancy Questionnaire undertaken at 32 weeks, with fear of childbirth defined by a score of more than 85.

Between 5% and 20% of pregnant women have a fear of giving birth, known as tocophobia

However, Samantha Salvesen Adams, co-author of the study, said, “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, deputy editor of BJOG, An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, that published the study, said, “There are a number of reasons why women 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.”

The study coincides with a call from the Royal College of Midwives reported in The Independent for more investment in maternity services and a warning that the Government must address the “serious shortage of midwives” or risk mistakes and lower quality care.

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