BACKGROUND: Fear of childbirth may reduce the womens' pain tolerance during labour and may have impact on the mother-infant interaction. We aimed to assess (1) the association between fear of childbirth antepartum and subsequent request for pharmacological pain relief, and (2) the association between the used method of pain relief and experienced fear of childbirth as reported postpartum in low risk labouring women.
METHODS: Secondary analysis of the RAVEL study, a randomised controlled trial comparing remifentanil patient controlled analgesia (PCA) and epidural analgesia to relieve labour pain. The RAVEL study included 409 pregnant women at low risk for obstetric complications at 18 midwifery practices and six hospitals in The Netherlands (NTR 3687). We measured fear of childbirth antepartum and experienced fear of childbirth reported postpartum, using the Wijma Delivery Expectancy/Experience Questionnaire.
RESULTS: Women with fear of childbirth antepartum more frequently requested pain relief compared to women without fear of childbirth antepartum, but this association did not reach statistical significance (adjusted odds ratio (aOR2.0; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.8-4.6). Women who received epidural analgesia more frequently reported fear of childbirth postpartum compared to women who did not receive epidural analgesia (aOR3.5; CI 1.5-8.2), while the association between remifentanil-PCA and fear of childbirth postpartum was not statistically significant (aOR1.7; CI 0.7-4.3).
CONCLUSIONS: Women with fear of childbirth antepartum more frequently requested pain relief compared to women without fear of childbirth antepartum, but this association was not statistically significant. Women who received pharmacological pain relief more frequently reported that they had experienced fear of childbirth during labour compared to women who did not receive pain relief. Based on our data epidural analgesia with continuous infusion does not seem to be preferable over remifentanil-PCA as method of pain relief when considering fear of childbirth postpartum.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: Netherlands Trial Register 3687 ; Register date: 5 Nov 2012.