Objective: To compare the prevalence and predictors of severe fear of childbirth and pregnancy-related anxiety in groups of assisted reproduction treatment (ART) and spontaneously conceiving women with singleton pregnancies.
Methods: The ART group (n = 367, nulliparous 260) represented a cohort from five Finnish infertility clinics in 1999. The control group (n = 379, nulliparous 135) was enrolled in this study by consecutive sampling the same year. Fear of childbirth was assessed by means of the revised version of the Fear-of-Childbirth Questionnaire and pregnancy-related anxiety by means of the Pregnancy Anxiety Scale at gestational week 20 +/- 3.2 (mean+/-standard deviation).
Results: The frequency of severe fear of childbirth and anxiety (classified as total scores in the 90th percentile or higher in the revised Fear of Childbirth Questionnaire and Pregnancy Anxiety Scale) did not differ between the groups. Nulliparity was associated with more frequent severe anxiety only in the controls. In nulliparous participants, a partnership of more than 5 years decreased the risk of severe fear of childbirth (odds ratio 0.3, 95% confidence interval 0.2-0.7). In the nulliparous ART group, a long duration of infertility (7 or more years) increased the risk of severe fear of childbirth (odds ratio 4.4, 95% confidence interval 1.2-16.9).
Conclusion: Women conceiving after ART do not experience severe fear of childbirth or pregnancy-related axiety more often than spontaneously conceiving controls. However, a long duration of infertility is an independent risk factor regarding severe fear of childbirth.
Level of evidence: II-2.