According to a new study conducted by the University of Oslo, women who are fearful or nervous about child birth with have on average a longer labour. Additionally those who reported feeling frightened were significantly more likely to have an emergency caesarean or an epidural.
2,206 women who were 32 weeks pregnant were recruited to participate in the research. Prior to the child birth, the women all completed psychological tests which were used to calculate each woman’s anxiety levels and fear of giving birth.
20 percent of the women in the study were regarded as tocophobic, which is a fear of childbirth.
The researchers reported that on average, women who reported having a high level of anxiety or were particularly scared about giving birth were likely to take an extra hour and a half to give birth as opposed to their calmer and less fearful counterparts. The study found that women who are not scared take on average six and a half hours from the onset of labour to give birth conversely nervous and scared women take over eight hours.
The study found that women who were anxious or scared go through the threat response in which their bodies release stress hormones including cortisol and adrenaline. It was found that these hormones inhibited the muscles in the womb contracting properly and therefore the labour process of pushing out the baby took longer.
It was also reported that scared women are less likely to seek help or support from midwives if they experience problems or require assistance. Therefore they could be receiving delayed or less support than calmer women.
Mindfulness is a technique that can be learned prior to child birth that could help women relax and stay calmer and less anxious during the labour process. In addition, Mindfulness has been shown to improve quality of life and help deal with depression and stress which may occur after the child birth.