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Between 5% and 14% of women suffer from fear of childbirth (FOC) which is associated with difficulties during birth and in postnatal psychological adjustment. Therefore, effective interventions are needed to improve outcomes for women. A systematic review and meta-analysis was used to identify effective interventions for treating women with FOC.
Literature searches were undertaken on online databases. Hand searches of reference lists were also carried out. Studies were included in the review if they recruited women with FOC and aimed to reduce FOC and/or improve birth outcomes. Data were synthesised qualitatively and quantitatively using meta-analysis. The literature searches provided a total of 4474 citations.
After removing duplicates and screening through abstracts, titles and full texts, 66 papers from 48 studies were identified for inclusion in the review. Methodological quality was mixed with 30 out of 48 studies having a medium risk of bias. Interventions were categorised into six broad groups: cognitive behavioural therapy, other talking therapies, antenatal education, enhanced midwifery care, alternative interventions and interventions during labour. Results from the meta-analysis showed that most interventions reduced FOC, regardless of the approach (mean effect size = −1.27; z = −4.53, p < 0.0001) and that other talking therapies may reduce caesarean section rates (OR 0.48, 95% CI 0.48–0.90).
Poor methodological quality of studies limits conclusions that can be drawn; however, evidence suggests that most interventions investigated reduce FOC. Future high-quality randomised controlled trials are needed so that clear conclusions can be made.
To examine health care practitioners’ views of the support women, partners, and the couple relationship require when affected by birth trauma, barriers to gaining such support, and potential improvements.
Ongoing distress following psychologically traumatic childbirth, also known as birth trauma, can affect women, partners, and the couple relationship. Birth trauma can lead to post traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) or disorder (PTSD). Whilst there is a clear system of care for a PTSD diagnosis, support for the more prevalent experience of birth trauma is not well-defined.
An online survey of health care practitioners’ views of the support parents require for birth trauma, barriers to accessing support, and potential improvements. Practitioners were recruited in 2018 and the sample for the results presented in the article ranged from 95 to 110.
Practitioners reported differing needs of support for women, partners, and the couple as a unit. There was correlation between practitioners reporting having the skills and knowledge to support couples and feeling confident in giving support. The support most commonly offered by practitioners to reduce the impact on the couple relationship was listening to the couple. However practitioners perceived the most effective support was referral to a debriefing service. Practitioners observed several barriers to both providing support and parents accessing support, and improvements to birth trauma support were suggested.
Practitioners indicate that some women, partners, and the couple as a unit require support with birth trauma and that barriers exist to accessing effective support. The support that is currently provided often conflicts with practitioners’ perception of what is most effective. Practitioners indicate a need to improve the identification of parents who need support with birth trauma, and more suitable services to support them.
In this chapter we discuss a number of aspects related to how women experience and engage with life stressors, including traumatic events. We seek to answer some of the questions concerning whether, how, and why women may experience stress differently from men.