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Keywords:

  • birth experience;
  • childhood abuse;
  • fear of childbirth

Abstract:  Background:  Childhood abuse affects adult health. The objective of this study was to examine the association between a self-reported history of childhood abuse and fear of childbirth.

Methods:  A population-based, cross-sectional study was conducted of 2,365 pregnant women at five obstetrical departments in Norway. We measured childhood abuse using the Norvold Abuse Questionnaire and fear of childbirth using the Wijma Delivery Expectancy Questionnaire. Severe fear of childbirth was defined as a Wijma Delivery Expectancy Questionnaire score of ≥85.

Results:  Of all women, 566 (23.9%) had experienced any childhood abuse, 257 (10.9%) had experienced emotional abuse, 260 (11%) physical abuse, and 290 (12.3%) sexual abuse. Women with a history of childhood abuse reported severe fear of childbirth significantly more often than those without a history of childhood abuse, 18 percent versus 10 percent (p = 0.001). The association between a history of childhood abuse and severe fear of childbirth remained significant after adjustment for confounding factors for primiparas (adjusted OR: 2.00; 95% CI: 1.30–3.08) but lost its significance for multiparas (adjusted OR: 1.17; 95% CI: 0.76–1.80). The factor with the strongest association with severe fear of childbirth among multiparas was a negative birth experience (adjusted OR: 5.50; 95% CI: 3.77–8.01).

Conclusions:  A history of childhood abuse significantly increased the risk of experiencing severe fear of childbirth among primiparas. Fear of childbirth among multiparas was most strongly associated with a negative birth experience. (BIRTH 37:4 December 2010)