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Eur J Pain. 2009 Mar;13(3):312-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ejpain.2008.04.010. Epub 2008 Jun 2.

Pain in childbirth and postpartum recovery: the role of catastrophizing.

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Center for Health and Medical Psychology, Department of Behavioural, Social and Legal Sciences - Psychology, Orebro University, Sweden.


This prospective study investigated how pain catastrophizing was related to labor pain intensity and physical recovery after childbirth. Eighty-eight women giving birth for the first time completed the first questionnaire before delivery. Eighty-two of those returned the second questionnaire after delivery. Participants were classified as catastrophizers (n=38) or non-catastrophizers (n=44) based on their scores on the Pain Catastrophizing Scale. Comparison of the groups showed that catastrophizers anticipated and experienced more intense pain (p<.0125) and had poorer physical recovery (p<.0125), measured as the level of self-reported functioning in activities of daily living, than non-catastrophizers. These results extend the association between catastrophizing and pain, to pain and recovery in childbirth and provide support for the fear-avoidance model. It is concluded that pain catastrophizing plays a role in the experience of pain in childbirth and postpartum recovery. Further research is needed to identify appropriate interventions for catastrophizing women during the latter part of pregnancy.

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