research, conducted predominately in Scandinavian countries, suggests that a substantial number of women experience high levels of fear concerning childbirth which can impact on birth outcomes, the mother-infant relationship and the ongoing mental health of the mother. The prevalence of childbirth-related fear (CBRF) is not well known outside of the Nordic nations. This study aimed to examine the prevalence of CBRF in two rural populations (Sweden and Australia) and to pilot a short, easy-to-administer measurement tool.
a questionnaire assessing a range of childbirth-related issues was administered to women in the first trimester across two rural populations in Sweden (n = 386) and Australia (n = 123). CBRF was measured using the Fear of Birth Scale (FOBS) a two-item visual analogue scale.
close to 30% of women from the Australian and Swedish samples reported elevated levels of CBRF in the first trimester. A previous negative birth experience and less than positive attitudes to their current pregnancy and birth were predictive of high levels of fear. Swedish women with high levels of fear indicated a preference for caesarean section as the mode of birth in this pregnancy. A higher proportion (19%) of Australian women indicated that they would prefer an elective caesarean section, compared with only 8.8% of the Swedish sample; however, this was not related to high levels of fear. Preference for caesarean section was related to CBRF in the Swedish sample but not in the Australian sample.
the high proportion of women identified with CBRF suggests a need for monitoring of women during pregnancy, particularly those with a previous negative birth experience. The FOBS developed for this study could be used as a screening tool to identify women who require further investigation. Further cross-cultural research is needed to explore the role of fear in women's preference for caesarean section.
2011. Vol. 27, no 4, 560-567 p.