Objectives: To examine the associations between fear of childbirth and emergency caesarean section and between fear of childbirth and dystocia or protracted labour and fetal distress.
Design: Prospective cohort study.
Setting: Danish National Birth Cohort.
Population: A total of 25 297 healthy nulliparous women in spontaneous labour with a single fetus in cephalic presentation at term following an uncomplicated pregnancy.
Methods: Data were collected during 1997-2003 from computer-assisted telephone interviews twice in pregnancy linked with national health registers.
Main outcome measures: Risk for emergency caesarean section of women who feared childbirth; risk for dystocia/protracted labour or fetal distress of women who feared childbirth.
Results: Fear of childbirth in early (16 weeks, 6 +/- 29 days) and late (31 weeks, 4 +/- 21 days) pregnancy was associated with emergency caesarean section: OR, 1.23 (1.05-1.47) and 1.32 (1.13-1.55), respectively. When fear of childbirth was expressed at both interviews, the OR was 1.43 (1.13-1.80). Women who feared childbirth had an increased risk for dystocia or protracted labour (OR, 1.33; 1.15-1.54), but not for fetal distress (OR, 0.94; 0.72-1.23).
Conclusions: Fear of childbirth during pregnancy was associated with dystocia and emergency caesarean section but not with fetal distress.