Objective: To describe fears associated with pregnancy and childbirth and to see whether women who have recently given birth feel that their fears were justified.
Design: A qualitative study. Data were collected by semi-structured interviews. Data interpretation was based on the method of content analysis.
Setting: The maternity units of two university hospitals in Finland.
Participants: A convenience sample of 20 women, 10 primiparae and 10 multiparae. The interviews were held 2 or 3 days after childbirth.
Findings: The most common fears associated with pregnancy and childbirth were concerned with the baby's well-being, the course of pregnancy, and childbirth. The fears found expression in different kinds of behaviours, emotions and physical sensations. Many of the participants felt that their fears had not been justified, but some maintained that their fears had been justifiable.
Key conclusions and implications for practice: There was much inter-individual variation in the fears associated with pregnancy and childbirth. It is important that diagnosis during pregnancy is undertaken sensitively and that midwifery staff remember that pregnant women may have very serious fears associated with pregnancy and childbirth. The participants in this study felt that fears associated with pregnancy and childbirth also had positive meanings. It may not be essential to try to protect women against these fears or to remove them altogether, but to give every pregnant women the opportunity to deal with her own fears and to obtain the help she needs in her situation.