Knowledge is power: How to reduce anxiety levels before giving birth

An Israeli team of researchers found a method that reduced a mother's anxiety and helped her cope during and after a C-section.

 Pregnant woman (Illustrative) (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Pregnant woman (Illustrative)
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Birth, and especially a cesarean, is an amazing event, yet it is accompanied by uncertainty, apprehension and even anxiety, anxiety that stems in part from a genuine fear of the operation or anesthesia, and in part from not knowing what happens during and after surgery.

Birthing mothers experience anxiety before C-section

These feelings have a price: High anxiety before the cesarean section was found to be associated with more use of postoperative painkillers, difficulty breastfeeding and longer recovery for the mom.

Previous studies examining the use of non-pharmacological measures to reduce anxiety, such as music or reflexology, have shown uneven and inconclusive results.

In light of the great importance of reducing anxiety and improving the patient experience, researchers from Israeli hospitals — Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, the Baruch Padeh Medical Center Poriya Poriya, near Tiberias, and the Samson Assuta Ashdod Hospital — decided to examine what would happen to mothers if they watched an informative video about the subject.

Did it reduce anxiety?

The 4.5-minute video detailed the entire C-section experience, from arriving at the hospital, to the surgery and then discharge.

The study, which was presented at the International Mother and Fetus Conference and accepted for publication in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, tested two groups: Mothers who watched the video and mothers who didn’t — as the control group.

For the study, 154 mothers were recruited who were giving birth for the first time via an elective, planned, and not-emergency C-section across the four medical centers. Participants in both groups filled out anxiety questionnaires called STAI, which have 20 sections in Hebrew and measure the anxiety threshold while filling out the questionnaire. The questionnaires were completed 3 times by study participants, on the morning of surgery and the day after. Psychologist Dr. Keren Jeremiah led the study.

The study

Maternity mothers had similar characteristics in both groups and identical anxiety scores. The anxiety score was lower in the video group (anxiety score 41) compared to the control group (anxiety score 49). This effect of lower anxiety scores in the video group was maintained even the day after surgery.

"This study is important and great in its simplicity, as a C-section is the most common surgery in the world and is accompanied by anxiety and uncertainty," said Dr. Eran Weiner, director of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Wolfson.

He added that the team is very proud of the multicenter research led by the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Wolfson and expressed his thanks to the doctors in the four centers, especially Dr. Hadas Miremberg, the chief investigator in the study.

Watching an informative and professional video through which the woman is exposed to the stages she will go through before, during and after the surgery in a professional and informative way calms, adds confidence and lowers anxiety. 

Weiner said that hospitals are already implementing the results of the study and producing informative videos such as this one for pre-birth use, birth induction and more.

"This study strengthens our belief as a team that using simple and available technological means helps us provide better medicine that sees the patient as a whole. Watching the video not only lowers anxiety but also gives a more uniform and detailed explanation before giving informed consent," said Miremberg.