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Attitudes and Beliefs About Childbirth Among College Students: Results of an Educational Intervention


Address correspondence to Elaine Cleeton, PhD, Department of Sociology, SUNY Geneseo, 1 College Circle, Geneseo, NY 14454.


Background: Research on knowledge of childbirth has focused primarily on expectant mothers. The purpose of this study was to investigate college student beliefs, knowledge of, and interest in learning more about childbirth. Methods: Qualitative research methods were used to analyze college students' written responses to a childbirth video as the first stage in a research project aimed at understanding nulliparous and prepaternity knowledge of childbirth among adolescents and young adults. Participants were 65 students at a liberal arts college in upstate New York. Results: The findings demonstrated a range of levels of awareness, interest, and knowledge. In their responses, students described childbirth as a miraculous event associated with fear of pain; students primarily knew that childbirth takes place in the hospital, where “safe and effective” pain medication is administered; students liked seeing the experiential aspect of birth; and students wanted to know about the risks and benefits of various hospital procedures, and the “spiritual” emotional aspects of giving birth. Conclusion: The findings contribute insights into how college students think about pain in childbirth, suggesting that their fear is associated with a lack of knowledge. Teaching high school students specifics about pregnancy and childbirth practices and procedures holds promise for reducing anxiety, increasing maternal control, and supporting positive birth experiences.