MSFHR Trainee’s research helps future moms fight fear of childbirth

20 September 2017

Caesarean deliveries in Canada and many other developed countries are at least 10 to 20 per cent higher than recommended by the World Health Organization. With funding from her 2013 Research Trainee award, Dr. Kathrin Stoll embarked on a project to understand why this is and why many efforts to decrease unnecessary C-sections have failed. Her findings, published recently in Reproductive Health, suggest that providing women with early knowledge about pregnancy and childbirth could help reduce these numbers.

Stoll and her team studied young women from eight middle and high-income countries and found that at least 10 per cent would prefer to deliver via caesarean even when the procedure is medically unnecessary, largely out of fear. Eight out of 10 women surveyed cited worries about labour pain, and six out of 10 were anxious about perceived physical damage from labour and birth.

Having sufficient information on childbirth seemed to make a difference. Of the 2,043 women who were sufficiently comfortable in their birth knowledge, only nine per cent said they would prefer caesarean in a healthy pregnancy. Among the 1,346 women who lacked that confidence, the proportion rises significantly to 14 per cent.

“Reducing unnecessary caesareans is important because abdominal surgery is linked to a higher risk of complications for the mother and baby and higher healthcare costs compared to vaginal births,” said Stoll, a postdoctoral fellow in the school of population and public health and the division of midwifery in UBC’s faculty of medicine.

“We should be providing women and men with information about childbirth early on, as early as elementary or secondary school, before their attitudes towards birth become too influenced by media dramatizations and other sources that aren’t evidence-based,” said Stoll.

Stoll cautions that more studies are needed to find out the best way to deliver this education. In the next stage of her research, she will test a promising midwife-led childbirth education program, currently practiced in Germany, for primary school children in Canada.