Fear of childbirth leads to longer labour: study

Pregnant women with a fear of childbirth need about an hour and a half more to bring their babies into the world than mums who take a more relaxed approach, a new Norwegian study has found.

Fear of childbirth leads to longer labour: study
Photo: Simona Balint (File)

Researchers at Akershus University Hospital made their findings after monitoring 2,206 pregnant women who planned to have natural births, medical news site Dagens Medisin reports.

The researchers tracked the women from the 32nd week of their pregnancies right up until they gave birth.

Some 7.5 percent of the respondents, who each filled out a detailed questionnaire, were found to fear giving birth. The study found that these women took an average of one hour and 32 minutes longer to give birth than the other budding mothers.     

Mums gripped by the fear factor spent an average of eight hours in labour, compared to six hours and 28 minutes for women who scored below 85 on the Wijma Delivery Expectancy Questionnaire.

“We reasoned that birth anxiety can affect the length of the birth in two different ways,” study co-author Samantha Salvesen Adams told Dagens Medisin.

“Birth anxiety can increase stress hormone levels. During the birth, an elevated stress hormone level can reduce contraction frequency, thereby delaying the birth.

“In addition, or alternatively, we believe that anxiety during a birth can affect communication between the woman giving birth and healthcare personnel, with possible consequences for the childbirth process,” said Adams.

Just over half of the women were first-time mothers, while the average age of participants was 30.9 years.

The study was first published last week in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology.

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Why are more people waiting to be given a GP in Norway?

As many as 116,000 people are waiting to be given a "fastlege", or GP, in Norway. So, why are residents having to wait to be assigned a doctor?

More than 116,000 people are waiting to be given a GP in Norway. Pictured is a picture of a stethoscope and some paperwork.
More than 116,000 people are waiting to be given a GP in Norway. Pictured is a picture of a stethoscope and some paperwork. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.

A recent quarterly report from the Norwegian Directorate of Health has revealed that 116,000 people in Norway are on the waiting list to be given a GP

Furthermore, the number of those without a doctor has grown in recent years, with those in rural and northern parts of the country more likely to be left waiting for a GP. 

The current GP scheme in Norway allows everyone to choose their own doctor, who acts as the patients’ main point of contact with the health service. Your GP is also responsible for your primary medical needs, and you are allowed to change your doctor twice a year. 

READ ALSO: How Norway’s health insurance scheme works and the common problems foreigners face

Doctors in Norway have warned that a lack of funding and staff is threatening the GP system. 

“The GP scheme is on the verge of collapsing because there are too few doctors,” Bernand Holthe, a GP on the board of the Nordland Medical Association and a member of GP’s association for the area, told public broadcaster NRK

He says that reform in 2012 to the GP system has left doctors with too much work with not enough resources at their disposal. 

“After the collaboration reform in 2012, the GP scheme has been given too many tasks without receiving a corresponding amount of resources,” Holthe said. 

The government has pledged around 450 million in funding for GPs in its state budget for 2022, which Holthe argues isn’t enough to recruit the number of GPs necessary. 

Nils Kristian Klev and Marte Kvittum Tangen who represent the country’s 5,000 or so GPs also said they were disappointed with the level of funding allocated for doctors in the national budget. 

“The Labor Party was clear before the election that they would increase the basic funding in the GP scheme. This is by far the most important measure to ensure stability and recruitment and it is urgent,” the pair told Norwegian newswire NTB.

Patients have been left frustrated, and in a recent survey on healthcare in the country, one reader of The Local expressed their frustration at not having a GP. 

“I moved from Olso to Tromso, and I’m currently without a GP. Helsenorge didn’t think this was an issue and told me to visit a hospital if I needed to see a doctor. How can a municipality have no places for a doctor? Everyone has a right to a local doctor, and I’ve been left with nothing. All I can do is join a waiting list in the hopes a place turns up before I get ill,” Sinead from Tromsø said in the survey. 

Another reader described the fastlege system as “horrible”. 

Key vocabulary

Fastlege– GP 

Legevakt– Emergency room

Sykehus– Hospital 

Helseforsikring– Health insurance

Legekontor- Doctors office