Identification and Treatment of Women with a Fear of Birth

Sammanfattning: Although a fear of birth affects many women during pregnancy and is associated with adverse birth outcomes, it is rarely measured in clinical practice and evidence-based treatments are lacking. The aim of this thesis was to assess the clinical utility of the Fear of Birth Scale, and to evaluate the effect of guided Internet-based cognitive behavior therapy compared with standard care on the levels of fear of birth in pregnant and postpartum women.This thesis consists of four papers originating from three studies. The Fear of Birth Scale was used to measure fear of birth among pregnant women in all three studies. In Study I, prevalence of fear of birth among Swedish-born and foreign-born pregnant women was measured, and in Study II, 31 pregnant women were interviewed about their thoughts when assessing fear of birth. In Study III, a multicenter randomized controlled trial was conducted to compare guided Internet-based cognitive behavior therapy (ICBT) with standard care for pregnant women with a fear of birth.Fear of birth was identified among 22% of the pregnant women. Prevalence was twice as high among the foreign-born women (37%) compared to the Swedish-born women (18%). When asking the participants what they thought when assessing their fear on the Fear of Birth Scale, they confirmed that they had understood the measurement intent of the scale. The randomized controlled trial showed that fear of birth decreased during pregnancy and postpartum in both groups. However, the levels of fear decreased more in the guided ICBT-group when measuring fear of birth up to one year postpartum. The changes in fear of birth over time did not differ between parity groups.Altogether, these results suggest that the Fear of Birth Scale is a suitable screening instrument for identifying pregnant women with a fear of birth in a clinical setting and that such screening would be beneficial, as it probably would increase the chance of achieving a more equitable care. As the effect of time during pregnancy and postpartum was most evident in reducing fear of birth, this can be communicated to pregnant women, along with a continuous dialogue about how the women experience fear during pregnancy.