In a study involving 65 women scheduled for an elective caesarean, researchers found that the way their birth partners felt during the operation was related to the woman’s own levels of fear and anxiety about the operation.

This increased the amount of pain the woman felt immediately after the operation, which could affect her immediate recovery as well as potentially influence other related factors such as breast feeding and parent-child bonding.

The lead researchers from the University of Bath (Dr Keogh) and Imperial College London (Dr Holdcroft) suggest that helping prepare the birth partner for a caesarean, both at antenatal classes and before the operation, could help reduce the pain experienced by the mother and improve the birth experience.

”Whilst it has become a social expectation that birth partners accompany and support mothers during a caesarean delivery, it is unclear what part birth partners play in women’s experience of childbirth. Whilst some women say that birth partners improve birth experiences, others report less positive outcomes. It is not unreasonable for the birth partner to have some feelings of anxiety and fear about the operation they are about to witness.”

The women and their birth partners were questioned before, during and after the delivery about their fears, expectations and experiences. The women were also assessed for their pain levels at different stages of the procedure and immediately afterwards.

The study revealed that those women who had negative birth expectations before the operation had the most fear experiences during the delivery, which in turn was related to greater post-operative pain. It also showed that women are most afraid during the application of the nerve block used to numb the lower part of the body, rather than the initial incision as the researchers expected.; Source: University of Bath