Prenatal Fear of Pain, Helplessness, and Loss of Control in Labor

  • Regina Lederman
  • Karen Weis


Fear of pain, helplessness, and loss of control in labor have been the subject of a number of research studies (Beebe, Lee, Carrieri-Kohlman, & Humphreys, 2007; Entwisle & Doering, 1981; Gagnon & Sandall, 2007; Hodnett & Osborne, 1989; Pacey, 2004; Raefael-Leff, 2001; Scott-Palmer & Skevington, 1981; Sherwen, 1983; Willmuth, Weaver, & Borenstein, 1978; Windwer, 1977). As regards fear of loss of control, some of these investigations, however, focused on locus of control – external or internal – or on political, social, and environmental control rather than maternal emotional and physical control. Research on locus of control is contradictory concerning its relevance to prenatal adaptation or outcomes. Entwisle and Doering (1981) used and then entirely dismissed the measure of locus of control because it was unrelated to other childbearing variables. Sherwen (1983) reported that body image attitudes following attendance at childbirth class were not influenced by locus of control, whereas Scott-Palmer and Skevington (1981) reported a relationship between locus of control and length of labor. In the research projects discussed in this book in Chapter 1 (and Chapter 11), the emphasis is on control as it pertains to a woman’s body and emotions and, to a lesser extent, on social control with regard to maintaining interpersonal status and respect. This focus reflects the content of the gravidas’ expressed apprehensions concerning control in labor and delivery.


Epidural Analgesia Family Doctor Physical Control Childbirth Experience Respiratory Intensive Care Unit 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Annandale, E. (1987). Dimensions of patient control in a free-standing birth center. Social Science and Medicine, 25, 1235–1248.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Ballen, L. E., & Fulcher, A. J. (2006). Nurses and Doulas: Complementary roles to provide optimal maternity care. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing, 35, 304–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beck, N., & Siegel, L. (1980). Preparation for childbirth and contemporary research on pain, anxiety, and stress reduction: A review and critique. Psychosomatic Medicine, 42, 429–447.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Beebe, K. R., Lee, K. A., Carrieri-Kohlman, V., & Humphreys, J. (2007). The Effects of childbirth self-efficacy and anxiety during pregnancy on prehospitalization labor. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing, 35, 410–418.Google Scholar
  5. Capogna, G., Camorcia, M., & Stirparo, S. (2006). Expectant fathers’ experience during labor with or without epidural anesthesia. European Journal of Anaesthesiology, 23, 611–617CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Capogna, G, Camorcia, M., & Stirparo, S. (2007) Expectant fathers’ experience during labor with or without epidural anesthesia. American Journal of Obstetric Anesthesia, 16, 110–115.Google Scholar
  7. Chertok, L. (1969) Motherhood and personality: Psychosomatic aspects of childbirth. Philadelphia. PA: Lippincott.Google Scholar
  8. Cheyne, H., Terry, R., NIven, C., Dowding, D., Hundley, V., & McNamee, P. (2007). ‘Should I come in now?’: A study of women’s early labour experience. British Journal of Midwifery, 15, 604–609.Google Scholar
  9. Cyna, A. M., McAuliffe, G. L., & Andrew, M. I. (2004). Hypnosis for pain relief in labour and childbirth: A systematic review. British Journal of Anaesthesia, 93, 505–511.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Deutscher, M. (1970) Brief family therapy in the course of first pregnancy: A clinical note. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 7, 21– 35.Google Scholar
  11. DiMatteo, M. R., Kahn, K. L., & Berry, S. H. (1993). Narratives of birth and postpartum: Analysis of the focus group responses of new mothers. Birth 20, 204–211CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Engle, P. L., Scrimshaw, S. C. M., Zambrana, R. E., & Dunkel-Shetter, C. (1990). Prenatal and postnatal anxiety in Mexican women giving birth in Los Angeles. Health Psychology, 9, 285–299.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Entwisle, D. R., & Doering, S. G. (1981). The first birth: A family turning point. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Eriksson, C., Salandar, P., & Hamburg, K. (2007). Men’s experiences of intense fear related to childbirth investigated in a Swedish qualitative study. The Journal of Men’s Health and Gender, 4, 409–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Escott, D., Spiby, H., Slade, P., & Fraser, R. B. (2004). The range of coping strategies women use to manage pain and amciety prior to and during first experience of labor. Midwifery 20, 144–156.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Fairbrother, N., & Woody, S. R. (2007). Fear of childbirth and obstetrical events as predictors of postnatal symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 28, 239–242.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Gagnon, A., & Sandall, J. (2007). Individual or group antenatal education for childbirth or parenthood, or both. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 3 CD002869.Google Scholar
  18. Gillman, R. D. (1968). The dreams of pregnant women and maternal adaptation. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 38, 688–692.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Greening, L. (2006). And – how was it for you dad? Community Practitioner, 79, 184–187.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Hodnett, E. D., Gates, S., Hofmeyr, G. J., & Sakala, C. (2003). Continuous support for women during childbirth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 3, CD003766.Google Scholar
  21. Hodnett, E. D., & Osborn, R. W. (1989). Effects of continuous intrapartum professional support on childbirth outcomes. Research in Nursing & Health, 12, 289–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hofmeyer, G. J., Nikodem, V. C., Wolman, W., Chalmers, B. E., & Kramer, T. (1991). Companionship to modify the clinical birth environment: Effects on progress and perceptions of labour, and breastfeeding. British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 98, 756–764.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Janis, I. L. (1958). Psychological stress. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  24. Lamaze, F. (1970). Painless childbirth, psychoprophylactic method. Chicago: Regnery.Google Scholar
  25. Lavender, T., Walkinshaw, S. A., & Walton, I. (1999). A prospective study of women’s views of factors contributing to a positive birth experience. Midwifery, 15, 40–46.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Lothian, J. (2006). Birth plans: The good, the bad and the future. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing, 35, 295–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lowe, N. (1989). Explaining the pain of active labor: The importance of maternal confidence. Research in Nursing & Health, 12, 237–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Melzack, R. (1984). The myth of painless childbirth (the John J. Bonica lecture). Pain 19, 321–337.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Pacey, S. (2004). Couples and the first baby: Responding to new parents’ sexual and relationship problems. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 19, 223–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Podder, L. (2007). Effects of music therapy on anxiety levels and pain perception. Nursing Journal of India, 98, 161.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Raefael-Leff, J. (2001). Pregnancy. The inside story. London: Karnac.Google Scholar
  32. Richardson, P. (1984). The body boundary experience of women in labor: A framework for care. Maternal-Child Nursing Journal, 13, 91–101.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Scott-Palmer, J., & Skevington, S. M. (1981). Pain during childbirth and menstruation: A study of locus of control. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 25, 151–155.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Sharma, S., Sangar, K., & Bajwa, G. (1998). A psycho-educational programme for the primigravidae: Effect of psycho-educational programme (Related to labor and delivery) on primigravidae’s level of anxiety during their third trimester of pregnancy. The Nursing Journal of India, 89, 53–55PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Sherwen, L. N. (1983). An investigation into the effects of psychoprophylactic methods training and locus of control on fantasy production and body cathexis in the primiparous woman. In L. N. Sherwen and C. Toussie-Weingarten (Eds.), Analysis and application of nursing research: Parent-neonatal studies. Monterey, CA: Wadsworth Health Sciences Division.Google Scholar
  36. Slade, P., MacPherson, S. A., Hume, A., & Maresh, M. (1993). Expectations, experiences and satisfaction with labour. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 32, 469–483.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Slavazza, K., Mercer, R., Marut, J., & Shnider, S. (1985). Anesthesia, analgesia for vaginal childbirth: Differences in maternal perceptions. Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing, 14, 321–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Smith, CA, Collins CT, Cyna AM, Crowther CA. Complementary and alternative therapies for pain management in labour. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2006;Oct 18, (4):CD003521.Google Scholar
  39. Trad, P. (1991). Adaptation to developmental transformations during various phases of motherhood. Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 19, 403–421.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Van den Bussche E., Crombez, G., Eccleston, C., & Sullivan, M. J. L. (2006). Why women prefer epidural analgesia during childbirth: The role of beliefs about epidural anesthesia and pain catastrophizing. European Journal of Pain, 11, 275–282.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Van den Bussche E, Crombez G., Eccleston, C., & Sullivan, M.J.L. (2007). Why women prefer epidural analgesia during childbirth: the role of beliefs about epidural analgesia during childbirth: the role of beliefs about epidural analgesia and pain catastrophizing. European Journal of Pain, 11, 275–282.Google Scholar
  42. Van de Castle, R., & Kinder, P. (1968). Dream content during pregnancy. Psycho-physiology, 4, 375.Google Scholar
  43. Willmuth, L. (1975). Prepared childbirth and the concept of control. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing, 4, 38–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Willmuth, L., Weaver, L., & Borenstein, J. (1978). Satisfaction with prepared childbirth and locus of control. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing, 7, 33–37.Google Scholar
  45. Windwer, C. (1977). Relationship among prospective parents’ locus of control, social desirability, and choice of psychoprophylaxis. Nursing Research, 26, 96–99.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Wuitchik, M., Hesson, K., & Bakal, D. A. (1990). Perinatal predictors of pain and distress during labor. Birth, 17, 186–191.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of TexasGalvestonUSA
  2. 2.United States Air Force School of Aerospace MedicineBrooks-City BaseUSA

Personalised recommendations