A Woman Afraid to Deliver: How to Manage Childbirth Anxiety

  • Klaas WijmaEmail author
  • Barbro Wijma


A woman has severe childbirth anxiety (CA) when she is so afraid of a delivery that it considerably impairs her personal, social, relational, and occupational life, her willingness to become pregnant, and/or her competence to give birth. Severe CA turns into a (specific) phobia when it is so intense that the woman earnestly wants to avoid pregnancy, delivery, or when a delivery will be endured with intense anxiety.

A pregnant woman with severe CA suffers from anxious apprehension, which pursues her to actively avoid places, cognitions, emotions, and physical reactions connected to her CA. In the end she can feel trapped in her situation, dreading the delivery to come.

A conservative estimation gives prevalence numbers of about 10 % for severe CA, including 2.5 % for phobic CA. Severe CA is thought to complicate pre-, ante-, and postpartum obstetric care. Mental problems, complications during childbirth, and postpartum mental difficulties all correlate with a history of severe CA.

For diagnostics, including differential diagnosis for other mental problems, treatment, and care guidance, obstetric staff is recommended to collaborate with mental health-care professionals.

The chapter offers a detailed description of clinically recognizable situations, provided with outcomes from research. Concrete recommendations are offered for caregivers’ communication and collaboration with patients. The chapter ends with practical suggestions for the interaction with women with severe CA during pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum.


Childbirth anxiety Fear of childbirth Anxiety Specific phobia Delivery Posttraumatic stress disorder PTSD Assessment Treatment Mental health care Cognitive behavioral therapy 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Unit of Medical Psychology, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health SciencesLinköping UniversitySE-58183 LinköpingSweden
  2. 2.Unit of Gender and Medicine, Department of Clinical Experimental Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health SciencesLinköping UniversitySE-58183 LinköpingSweden

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