An effort to make all the pieces come together

A new research article about intense fear of childbirth

Photo: University of Gotheburg

Photo: University of Gotheburg

We know that childbirth experiences are important life events for women. Childbirth can be an experience of power, but for some women an experience similar to their worst imaginable nightmare. These women can develop an intense fear of forthcoming births – a problem that affects their everyday life.

The background for this phenomenological study is that women´s fear of birth has gained much attention from researchers during the last decade, but research that focuses women´s experiences is lacking – especially from a long-term perspective.

Six women who had sought help for intense fear of childbirth because of a negative birth experience during their second or third pregnancy 7 to 11 years ago were interviewed about the meaning of experiences of childbirth and childbirth fear. The participants had 2-3 children each; altogether they had 14 children from the ages of 4 up to 21 years.

The essential structure of the phenomenon is “an effort to make all the pieces come together” with the constituents: every childbirth is a narrative that lingers on, fear of childbirth is connected to the period of childbearing, and the experiences of childbirth are central life experiences.

This study indicates that the women´s childbirth fear and childbirth experiences have been linked together and integrated as central life experiences. The fear is connected to the previous difficult birth experience and isolated from everything else in their lives. Over the years the fear has gradually lost its importance for the women.

There is no consensus about the definition of fear of childbirth. This study evokes reflections about fear because of a previous difficult childbirth experience. Instead of pathologizing women´s fear it can be more accurate to see the fear as a natural response to a terrifying experience. The women´s childbirth experiences are expressed in several nuances such as harmonic, disharmonic or toned down. This finding indicates the complexity of the experience suggesting a more non-polarizing and holistic understanding of women´s childbirth experiences.


Nilsson, C., Robertson, E., & Lundgren I. (2012). An effort to make all the pieces come together: Women´s long-term perspectives on their experiences of intense fear of childbirth. International Journal of Childbirth, 2(4), 255-268.

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