Aims: The aims of the present study were 1) to investigate the associations between fear of childbirth during pregnancy and postpartum and fear and pain during labor (phase 1: cervix dilatation 3-5 cm), and 2) to explore possible differences regarding fear of childbirth during pregnancy and postpartum between women who did or did not receive epidural analgesia (EDA) during labor.
Method. During gestation weeks 37-39, in 47 nulliparous women fear of childbirth was measured by means of the Wijma Delivery Expectancy/Experience Questionnaire (W-DEQ) version A. Early during labor (labor phase I = cervix dilatation 3-5cm) the women's fear (Delivery Fear Scale) and their experiences of pain (a pain intensity scale) were measured hourly. Finally, fear after childbirth (W-DEQ version B) was measured two hours, two days, and five weeks after delivery.
Results. Fear of childbirth during pregnancy and in the three postpartum measures was positively related to fear during labor, phase I. Pain during phase 1 of labor was neither associated with fear of childbirth measured during late pregnancy, nor with postpartum fear. There were no differences in fear of childbirth during late pregnancy between those women who received EDA and those who did not. Postpartum fear was higher in those women who had received EDA.
Conclusion. Late pregnant women who fear childbirth are prone to have a fearful delivery, as reported during the actual labor and postpartum.