Women's expectations and experience of birth

Ayers, S and Pickering, Alan. 2005. Women's expectations and experience of birth. Psychology and Health, 20(1), pp. 79-92. ISSN 0887-0446 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This was an exploratory study with three aims: (1) to examine the relationship during pregnancy between expectations of birth and symptoms of anxiety; (2) to examine the relationship between expectations and subsequent experience of birth; (3) to examine the effect of parity on expectations and experience. This was carried out through a prospective postal questionnaire study with 289 pregnant women who completed measures of expectations of birth (e.g. expectations of obstetric events, emotions, control, support, pain etc), trait and state anxiety during the 36th week of pregnancy. One week after birth women completed a questionnaire about their birth experience.

The results found that anxiety in pregnancy was associated with expecting less positive emotion during birth, more negative emotion during birth, less control and less support during birth. Expectations were positively related to the birth experience. For example, women who expected high levels of control also experienced high levels of control during birth, although in general the correlation coefficients were low. Some aspects of women’s experience were significantly different to their expectations, although these differences were no longer significant when trait anxiety was controlled for. Finally, differences were observed between primiparas and multiparas in both expectations and experience of birth, although primiparas were not always more ‘inaccurate’ in their expectations. These results are discussed and suggestions for future research made.

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labour, birth, expectations, experience, anxiety, parity

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Date Deposited:

17 Mar 2015 14:17

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:10

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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