Ethnic differences in women's worries about labour and birth

Ethn Health. 2011 Jun;16(3):213-23. doi: 10.1080/13557858.2011.561302.


Objective: To describe the worries experienced by pregnant Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) women about labour and birth and compare their experience to that of White women.

Design: Data were collected in England in a survey of experience of maternity care. A random sample of 4800 women selected from birth registration records and questionnaires were mailed at three months postpartum. A total of 2960 (63%) completed a checklist of common worries about labour and birth. For 2765 there were complete data on ethnicity and all potential confounders. Chi(2) tests and logistic regression models were used to investigate the associations of ethnicity with worries about labour. Unadjusted and adjusted models were run for each worry outcome. Adjustment was made for age, education, parity, relationship status and area deprivation (Index of Multiple Deprivation, IMD).

Results: Overall, the pattern of worries was similar, however, larger proportions of BME women worried about almost all the aspects of labour and birth investigated, including pain, uncertainty about labour onset and duration, possible medical interventions and embarrassment. After adjustment for age, education, relationship status, parity and socioeconomic position, the higher odds of worry in the BME group were most marked in relation to pain and discomfort, not knowing how long labour would take, embarrassment and having more worries overall. Further adjustment for factors likely to affect women's worries, namely depression, being admitted to hospital during the pregnancy, or having experienced medical problems in a previous pregnancy did not alter these findings.

Conclusion: Compared with White women, twice as many ethnic minority women worried about pain and discomfort, not knowing how long labour would take and about embarrassment during labour and birth. Additional research is needed to understand these concerns and how they might be ameliorated by the health professionals working directly with women and any services changes needed to improve the quality of maternity care. Implications for practice include improved information-giving and support in providing the individualised care that women need.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Americans / psychology*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • England
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Labor Pain / ethnology
  • Labor Pain / psychology
  • Labor, Obstetric / ethnology
  • Labor, Obstetric / psychology*
  • Logistic Models
  • Maternal Health Services / standards
  • Pain / ethnology
  • Pain / psychology
  • Parturition / ethnology
  • Parturition / psychology*
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnant Women / ethnology
  • Pregnant Women / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Whites / psychology*
  • Young Adult