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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Fear of childbirth among young Canadians Stoll, Kathrin


In my secondary analysis of a large online survey data set (n = 3,680 university students), I used both quantitative and qualitative data analysis techniques to better understand factors contributing to students’ fear of childbirth. Albert Bandura’s social learning theory served as my conceptual framework to guide the development of a 6-item fear of birth scale and my selection of covariates that may be associated with fear of birth among Canadian students. I triangulated themes inductively derived from comments about labour and birth (n=1337) written by female respondents who scored in the high and low range on the fear of birth scale with the quantitative results to improve understanding of the phenomenon. Fear of childbirth affected approximately 1 in 7 female students; very few male students exhibited fear of birth (< 4%). Concerns over physical changes during pregnancy and birth were strongly associated with Cesarean section (CS) preference among male and female students. Having learned about pregnancy and birth through the media was associated with higher fear scores, compared to other sources of information. When examining predictors of childbirth fear in a logistic regression model, I found two factors decreased fear of birth: increased confidence in students’ knowledge of pregnancy and birth and having witnessed a birth first hand. Qualitative themes extended my understanding of the fear of birth scores, by indicating that fear of pain is a dominant dimension of childbirth fear among female students. Obstetric interventions, such as elective CS, are favoured by students with high fear of birth, and seen as a way to circumvent the pain of childbirth. Women with high and low fear of birth supported the theme that mode of delivery is a woman’s choice; however, students with low fear of birth were more likely to view birth as a natural and normal process and express concerns that obstetric interventions may carry unacceptable risks. Comments from students with high fear of birth supported the themes that pain of childbirth is unmanageable and birth is a painful and frightening ordeal. Findings from my study have important implications for education, practice and research.

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