Treatment for childbirth fear with a focus on midwife-led counselling : A national overview, women’s birth preferences and experiences of counselling

Abstract: Background: Many women experience childbirth fear to such an extent that it seriously interferes with the woman’s daily life and affects her mental well-being.Aim: The overall aim was to conduct an overview of the midwife-led counselling for childbirth fear in Sweden, to investigate women’s birth preferences and to describe their experiences of treatment on childbirth fear, with focus on midwife-led counselling.Methods: Study I is a cross-sectional study where 43 out of 45 maternity clinics responded to a questionnaire regarding midwife-led counselling. Study II is a longitudinal survey where 889 women participated of whom 70 received counselling. Data were collected by questionnaires in mid-pregnancy, two months and finally, one year after birth. Study III is a randomised controlled study with 258 participating women assessed with childbirth fear. It compares Internet-based cognitive behaviour therapy (ICBT) with midwife-led counselling. Data were collected by questionnaires twice during pregnancy and two months after birth. Study IV is a qualitative interview study using thematic analysis, including 27 women who received midwife-led counselling during pregnancy.Results: Overall, midwife-led counselling was perceived as empowering by the women and increased their confidence when facing birth. The preference for a caesarean section decreased during pregnancy and the majority had a normal vaginal birth but an increase in preference for caesarean section appeared after birth. Half of the women who received treatment for childbirth fear experienced a less than positive birth. Women who had a positive birth experience voiced that the contributing factors were the self-confidence received from counselling and the support from the midwife during birth. Decreased or manageable fear was expressed by the women after counselling and birth, which in turn brought a strengthened confidence for a future pregnancy and birth. Furthermore, major differences exist in counselling for childbirth fear throughout the clinics in Sweden.Conclusion: Midwife-led counselling improved women’s confidence toward giving birth and fear was perceived as manageable. Continuous support is crucial to experience birth as positive. Although women’s preferences for caesarean section did not change over time, few women gave birth with a caesarean section without medial reason.