Fear of childbirth and risk for birth complications in nulliparous women in the Danish National Birth Cohort

BJOG. 2009 Sep;116(10):1350-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.2009.02250.x. Epub 2009 Jun 17.


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.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cesarean Section / psychology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Denmark
  • Dystocia / psychology
  • Fear*
  • Female
  • Fetal Distress / psychology
  • Humans
  • Labor, Obstetric / psychology*
  • Obstetric Labor Complications / psychology*
  • Parity
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult