The Childbirth Fear We Don't Talk About

And nope, it's not the pain. 

Women Aren't Confident in Maternity Healthcare Kzenon/Shutterstock

The thought of giving birth is scary for so many reasons—but according to a recent study, women are more afraid of it than we previously thought...and one of the things they fear the most is a bit surprising.

According to a study by the University of Michigan, women are as nervous about their health care providers and hospital settings as they are about the pain of giving birth. What's making them anxious? According to Lee Roosevelt, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing, they're worried they'll be abandoned by their clinician, won't be treated respectfully, or that their designated clinician won't attend the actual birth.

This issue has complicated implications: On the one hand, a certain level of fear can be beneficial, as it can help expectant mothers stay informed and prepared for childbirth, putting plans into place and asking healthcare providers about their fears. On the other hand, too much fear can cause complications during childbirth. "Women who have significant fear of childbirth are more likely to have C-sections, longer labors, and to need induction or augmentation," Roosevelt said. "They're [also] more likely to have postpartum depression."

"As a clinician and midwife myself, I knew that the relationship that I have with my patients is so essential, but I didn't really realize how key it was to women's fears," she continued.

A colleague of Roosevelt's, Lisa Kane Low, an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing, says the study's findings have broader implications. "The results say a lot about how we do maternity care in this country," she asserted, adding that she believes that clinicians should ask their patients open-ended questions about pregnancy and childbirth to improve communication.

"Women want to be in a discussion with their provider about their fears," Kane Low said. "They don't want to be patted on the back and told, 'Oh, that's normal, you're having a baby.'"