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Ethnic differences in women's worries about labour and birth

Principal investigator
Maggie Redshaw (NPEU (Former member))
Katriina Heikkila (NPEU (Former member))
Labour and delivery, Socioeconomic and ethnic inequalities, Women's experience of maternity care
Start year
End year


The extent to which women worry about labour and varies considerably. The aim was describe the worries experienced by pregnant Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) women and to compare their experience to that of White women. Using the National Maternity Survey data from 2010 a total of 2960 women who had recently given birth (63%) completed a checklist of common worries about labour and birth. Adjustment was made for confounding factors including age, education, parity, relationship status and area deprivation (Index of Multiple Deprivation, IMD).

Key findings:

  • Overall, the pattern of worries was similar, however, larger proportions of BME women worried about almost all the aspects of labour and birth investigated, including pain, uncertainty about labour onset and duration, possible medical interventions and embarrassment
  • After adjustment for age, education, relationship status, parity and socioeconomic position, the higher odds of worry in the BME group were most marked in relation to pain and discomfort, not knowing how long labour would take, embarrassment and having more worries overall.
  • Further adjustment for factors likely to affect women's worries, namely depression, being admitted to hospital during the pregnancy, or having experienced medical problems in a previous pregnancy did not alter these findings.

It was concluded that twice as many ethnic minority women worried about pain and discomfort, not knowing how long labour would take and about embarrassment during labour and birth. Further research is needed to understand these concerns and how they might be addressed by healthcare providers working directly with women and services changes needed to improve the quality of maternity care. These would include improved information-giving and support antenatally and during labour and birth..


Journal Articles