The mental attitude of a mum-to-be has been found to have a bearing on the type of birth she will experience, according to a Norwegian study published in the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
Researchers found that women who suffer from tokophobia, a phobia of labour, give birth in eight hours. Those with a more relaxed attitude give birth in less time, just six hours and 28 minutes.
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The study interviewed pregnant women at 32 weeks gestation to discover their attitudes towards the upcoming birth. It revealed that women who are scared of giving birth are more likely to need an instrumental vaginal delivery (forceps or ventous), 17 per cent of women, as opposed to ten per cent of women who have no fear.
Tokophobic women are also more likely to have an emergency caesarean, 10.9 per cent of women, compared to only 6.8 per cent of women who don’t fear childbirth. This finding backs up recent changes to NICE guidelines surrounding elective caesareans. Women on the NHS are now able to request a caesarean if they cannot bear the thought of giving birth naturally.
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“Fear of childbirth seems to be an increasingly important issue in obstetric care,” said Study co-author Samantha Salvesen Adams, Health Services Research Centre, Akershus University Hospital, University of Oslo.
"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.”
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Though being nervous of childbirth is to be expected, a medical phobia of labour only affects between five and 20 per cent of pregnant women. Reasons for this phobia include being a first time mother, being particularly young, having previous psychological problems or a lack of social support.
Just over half of the participants were first time mothers, whose average labour duration was eight hours 22 minutes. The average age of the women studied was 30.9 years.