Background: The prevalence of fear of childbirth in pregnant women is described to be about 20-25%, while 6-10% of expectant mothers report a severe fear that impairs their daily activities as well as their ability to cope with labour and childbirth. Research on fear of childbirth risk factors has produced heterogeneous results while being mostly done with expectant mothers from northern Europe, northern America, and Australia.
Aims: The present research investigates whether fear of childbirth can be predicted by socio-demographic variables, distressing experiences before pregnancy, medical-obstetric factors and psychological variables with a sample of 426 Italian primiparous pregnant women.
Methods: Subjects, recruited between the 34th and 36th week of pregnancy, completed a questionnaire packet that included the Wijma Delivery Expectancy Questionnaire, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, the Dyadic Adjustment Scale, the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support, as well as demographic and anamnestic information. Fear of childbirth was treated as both a continuous and a dichotomous variable, in order to differentiate expectant mothers as with a severe fear of childbirth.
Findings: Results demonstrate that anxiety as well as couple adjustment predicted fear of childbirth when treated as a continuous variable, while clinical depression predicted severe fear of childbirth.
Conclusions: Findings support the key role of psychological variables in predicting fear of childbirth. Results suggest the importance of differentiating low levels of fear from intense levels of fear in order to promote adequate support interventions.
- Fear of childbirth
- Primiparous women
- Risk factors
- Severe fear of childbirth