Potential mechanisms in fear of birth: The role of pain catastrophizing and intolerance of uncertainty


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Abstract

Background:Although many pregnant women experience fear, worry, or anxiety relating to the upcoming birth, little is known regarding the psychological mechanisms contributing to these experiences. In this study, we wanted to take a first step in trying to identify mechanisms of potential interest. The objective of this cross-sectional study was thus to investigate pain catastrophizing, intolerance of uncertainty, positive worry beliefs, and cognitive avoidance as potential mechanisms predicting fear of birth among pregnant women.Methods:A sample of 499 pregnant women, recruited in antenatal health care settings in 2 Swedish regions, completed the Fear of Birth Scale, along with measurements of the mechanisms of interest. Linear and logistic hierarchical regression analyses were used to investigate the extent to which pain catastrophizing, intolerance of uncertainty, positive worry beliefs, and cognitive avoidance predicted fear of birth, both as a continuous and a dichotomous measure.Results:Logistic regression analysis showed high levels of pain catastrophizing and intolerance of uncertainty to be the best predictors of fear of birth, OR 3.49 (95% CI 2.17-5.61) and OR 3.25 (95% CI 2.00-5.27), respectively. Positive beliefs about worry and cognitive avoidance were both correlated with fear of birth as a continuous measure, but did not contribute to the logistic regression model.Conclusions:Pain catastrophizing and intolerance of uncertainty were the most evident predictors of fear of birth. Although preliminary, the findings suggest that interventions targeting catastrophic cognitions and intolerance of uncertainty might be relevant to psychological treatment for fear, worry, or anxiety relating to giving birth.

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