The concept of woman-centered health care as it relates to your birth takes all aspects of the experience into consideration. Not only should your physical needs be met during childbirth, but it is also important for health care providers to understand and respond to your beliefs and attitudes through the process. Your psychological well being during childbirth is considered as important as your physical well being in woman-centered health care.

In a proper woman-centered approach, health care providers look past protocol procedures to gain a better understanding of your attitudes about pregnancy, birth and your life situation, and treat you accordingly. Your attitudes about pregnancy can be attributed to a number of things, including your friends. For example if your friends have all been happy with their cesarean sections, you will more likely be unashamed to get one too if you fear the pain of natural birth.

A recent study was designed to determine how the attitudes of women about their pregnancy and birth affected their birth experience. In the study, women were separated into three attitude groups. “Fearful” women were those who were afraid of the pain, personal impact and safety level of childbirth. The “take it as it comes” group included women who were indifferent, and “Self Determiners” were women without fear who believed birth was a natural process. The results of the study clearly showed the different outcomes of pregnant women with varying attitudes.

Fearful women were more likely to have a negative birth experience, even including their feelings about the first few weeks with a newborn. They usually opted for epidural or cesarean. Women who were indifferent had an overall positive experience. Most self-determiners had a positive, natural birth provided there were no complications. The study was designed in order to better assist caregivers in caring for their patients appropriately.

Fear absolutely influences the childbirth experience, and women who are afraid of their birth should be closely monitored in the weeks following birth for postpartum depression. Women who are excited about it need the least attention during pregnancy, but should be given extra attention if an issue arises in their pregnancy that could interfere with their natural birth. So, if your attitude does not lend itself to a positive birth experience, at least health care providers have the option of addressing your concerns on a personal level to make a positive birth experience more likely.

Source: Helen M Haines, Christine Rubertsson, Julie F Pallant and Ingegerd Hildingsson: The influence of women’s fear attitudes and beliefs of childbirth on mode and experience of birth, BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, June 2012

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