UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An exploratory study of women’s experiences of fear about childbirth Rahmati, Nadia


Women’s childbirth fear is a common phenomenon that has been explored in European and Australian contexts. In Canada, however, only quantitative studies of levels of women’s childbirth fear have been undertaken. It is important to explore Canadian women’s perceptions of childbirth fear. Using a descriptive qualitative research design, I interviewed 10 nulliparous women from British Columbia. Through concurrent data collection and inductive content analysis, I developed themes that captured women’s experiences of childbirth fear. Most women described fear of childbirth as their perception of childbirth as ‘an unknown territory’ including their expressed fears about pain of labour, feeling out of control, and parenting. Several factors appeared to influence the women’s levels of fear. Their fears were enhanced by external messages about childbirth that emphasized suffering and risk. Women’s expression of their childbirth fear was also influenced by the amount and quality of support they believed was available to them. This support included the presence of familiar people , or health care providers during the labour process. Women’s previous experience with health care providers during pregnancy influenced their fears when considering childbirth. Negative messages about labour and birth conveyed by the media and stories from others that depicted birth as painful, unpredictable, horrible, and requiring medication affected all of the women. A number of women described actively resisting the medicalization of childbirth and embracing their abilities to successfully navigate childbirth. The findings from this study support considerations of key elements of childbirth fear and factors affecting childbirth fear to inform healthcare professionals who are offering interventions and support to reduce childbirth fear for women.  

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