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Have Women Become More Willing to Accept Obstetric Interventions and Does This Relate to Mode of Birth? Data from a Prospective Study

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Background: Concern has increased about rising rates of cesarean section and other obstetric interventions, and it has been suggested that a change in women’s attitudes may be partly responsible. Our objectives were, first, to examine changes in women’s antenatal willingness to accept obstetric interventions between 1987 and 2000 and, second, to look at the relationship between willingness to accept obstetric interventions and mode of birth. Methods: Data on willingness to accept obstetric interventions were collected at 35–36 weeks of pregnancy using postal questionnaires, and follow-up of women was conducted 6 weeks postnatally. Data are presented for 977 women drawn from 8 maternity units in England who were due to give birth in April to May 2000. To address the first objective, data were compared with the parent study carried out in 1987. Results: The sample had significantly more positive antenatal attitudes toward obstetric interventions than the comparable sample in 1987 (F= 42.25, df= 1, p < 0.001). Willingness to accept obstetric interventions was related to mode of birth. Binary logistic regression controlling for age, education, and parity showed that women with high “willingness to accept intervention” scores had a nearly twofold increase in the odds of an operative or instrumental birth (OR 1.94, 95% CI 1.28–2.95) compared with women who had low scores. These attitudes also predicted epidural analgesia use, and differences in mode of birth were no longer significant when epidural use was included in the regression model. Conclusions: A shift toward greater willingness to accept obstetric interventions appears to have occurred since 1987, and this shift does appear to relate to mode of birth in the 2000 cohort but not in 1987. The findings suggest that epidural analgesia use mediates the link. (BIRTH 34:1 March 2007)

Keywords: attitudes; changes over time; epidural; mode of birth; obstetric technology

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Helen A. Baston is Lecturer in Midwifery at the Mother & Infant Research Unit, University of York, York, United Kingdom.

Publication date: 2007-03-01

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