Extracted from MIDIRS Midwifery Digest, vol 24, no 3, September 2014, pp 327-332.
by Alison Brodrick
Many of these women will have experienced a previous negative or even traumatic birth which has triggered or exacerbated the fear (Saisto et al 1999, Rouhe et al 2009, Størksen et al 2012).
In a primigravid population this is not the case and understanding the roots of the fear acquisition is both interesting and challenging.
As health care professionals, it is important that we seek to understand and address ways of reducing fear and find ways of supporting women to feel confident in their ability to navigate the journey to motherhood.
This article outlines the role played by the cultural framing of birth and how it impacts on the beliefs and fears of primigravid women. Maternal characteristics and personality traits are also explored and how as health care professionals we can support primigravid women who present with a primary fear of childbirth.
The effects of cultural socialisation on fear of childbirth
What is shaping this fear in nulliparous women is complex and multi-factorial. In terms of context it is useful to explore how society as a whole views birth and how those perceptions are formed.
In terms of understanding how attitudes to childbirth are changing in the UK, Green et al‘s (2003) large prospective study is insightful.
Comparing results from 1997 and 2000, the study illustrates increasing anxiety around the process of childbirth with more women fearing the pain of labour, more women wanting to have an epidural and fewer women planning a natural birth.
It also highlighted an increased acceptance of intervention in the childbirth process.
Other studies too have highlighted the interplay of societal norms, especially seen in the tolerance of rising CS rates coupled with the view that vaginal birth is risky and therefore CS is the alternative (Fenwick et al 2010, Haines et al 2011).
CS is seen as an acceptable way for a baby to enter the world; rather than seeing labour and birth as a journey it is considered a way of getting a baby (Fenwick et al 2010).
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