Fear of Childbirth May Lead to Longer Labor

by Patty Hardy

Fear of Childbirth May Lead to Longer Labor

Pregnancy itself can be scary. When your pregnancy reaches the third trimester and the prospect of labor and delivery is hovering, it's normal to get a little nervous. Earlier on, all you may have to worry about is eating right and stretching your legs. As your due date gets closer, you could become anxious about everything surrounding the delivery, from episiotomies and epidurals to, what else, labor pains.

It's not a myth that the delivery process is painful. In fact, labor is often described as one of the most painful experiences a female can have in her life. However, there are ways to reduce the discomfort and conquer your fears.

According to Nemours Foundation, women find that it isn't the actual pain of the contractions that are unbearable, but rather the fact they keep coming with increasing frequency as labor endures. In this regard, if you exercise consistently throughout pregnancy, your muscles will be strong and can make you more prepared to take on labor contractions. Attending childbirth classes could also ensure that there are few surprises when your labor begins and events unfold. Since every woman handles pain differently, such classes are designed to teach you how to handle the intensity in ways that best suit you.

Creating Coping Mechanisms May Help Labor Be Less Painful

Taking all of this information into consideration as early as the first trimester is important. A new study published in the BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reported that the five to 20 percent of women who fear childbirth may ironically endure a longer labor period.

"Fear of childbirth seems to be an increasingly important issue in obstetric care. Our finding of longer duration of labour in women who fear childbirth is a new piece in the puzzle within this intersection between psychology and obstetrics," said Samantha Adams, co-author of the study and researcher at Akershus University Hospital in Norway.

The study looked at 2,206 pregnant women who were planning on delivering vaginally, assessed them with a questionnaire that measured their fear and then timed their labor period, which is medically defined as beginning when the cervix is dilated at three to four centimeters and three contractions of the uterus are occurring every 10 minutes.

The observations revealed that women who feared the whole process spent, on average, and extra hour and 32 minutes in labor, than compared to women with less severe worries. Researchers also found that women with fears were more likely to deliver by instrumental vaginal delivery or emergency cesarean section than those without.

What are your experiences with delivery? What were some of your coping mechanisms? Did you prepare your body in advance by exercising or taking classes? Leave your answers in the comments section!