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Glob Ment Health (Camb). 2015 May 30;2:e10. doi: 10.1017/gmh.2015.6. eCollection 2015.

Exploring women's fear of childbirth in a high maternal mortality setting on the Arabian Peninsula.

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Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
Department of the Secretary-General, National Yemeni Midwives Association, Sana'a, Yemen.
Department of Family Planning, Ministry of Public Health & Population, Sana'a, Yemen.
Department of Women's and Children's Health, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.



Few studies from low-income countries have addressed women's fear of childbirth (FOC) although likely to affect women during both pregnancy and childbirth. The aim of this study was to explore FOC in a high maternal mortality setting in the Arab region, Yemen.


A multi-stage (stratified-purposive-random) sampling process was used. We interviewed 220 women with childbirth experience in urban/rural Yemen. Answers to the question 'Were you afraid of giving birth?' were analyzed using qualitative content analysis.


Women perceived childbirth as a place of danger. Fear of death and childbirth complications stemming from previous traumatic childbirth and traumatic experience in the community was rampant. Husbands' and in-laws' disappointment in a girl infant constituted a strong sociocultural component of FOC. Women's perception of living in tension 'between worlds' of tradition and modernity reinforced fear of institutional childbirth. Women without FOC gave reasons of faith, social belonging and trust in either traditional or modern childbirth practice, past positive experience of childbirth and the desire for social status associated with children.


The numerous maternal and infant deaths have a strong impact on women's FOC. Antenatal care has an important role in reducing fear including that of institutional childbirth and in strengthening a couple in welcoming a female infant. Staff should be sensitized to the fears of both husband and wife and women be allowed support during childbirth. Within the scope of the Millennium Development Goals and strengthening of reproductive mental health programs, FOC urgently needs to be addressed.


Fear of childbirth; Millennium Development Goals; Yemen; girl child; maternal mortality; pregnancy

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