Fear of birth in clinical practice: A structured review of current measurement tools

Yana Richens, Debbie M Smith, Tina Lavender

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    45 Citations (Scopus)


    To identify measurement tools which screen for the presence of fear of birth (FOB) and to determine the most effective tool/s for use in clinical practice.

    Fear or birth (FOB) is internationally recognised as a cause for increasing concern, despite a lack of consensus on a definition or optimal measure of assessment. There is a wide array of FOB measurement tools, however little clarity on which tool should be used to screen for FOB in clinical practice. This review explores the use of tools that are used to screen for FOB and discusses the perceived effectiveness of such tools.

    A structured literature review was undertaken. Electronic databases were searched in July 2017 and manuscripts reviewed for quality.

    The review included 46 papers. The majority of studies were undertaken in Scandinavia (n = 29) and a range of tools were used to measure FOB. The most widely used tool was the Wijma Delivery Expectancy Experience Questionnaire’ (W-DEQ). Inconsistencies were found in the way this tool was used, including variations in assessment cut-off points, implementation and use across a range of cultural settings and women of varying gestations. Moreover, the tool may be too lengthy to use in clinical practice. The Fear of Birth Scale (FOBS) has been shown to be as effective as W-DEQ but has the advantage of being short and easy to administer.

    The inconsistencies in tools reflect the difficulties in defining FOB. A clear consensus definition of FOB would aid comparisons across practice and research. The W-DEQ is not used in clinical practice; this may be due to its length and complexity. The FOBS is likely to be a more versatile tool that can be used in clinical practice.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)98-112
    Number of pages15
    JournalSexual & Reproductive Healthcare
    Early online date21 Feb 2018
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


    • Fear of birth
    • Structured review
    • Clinical practice
    • Clinical diagnosis
    • Screening
    • Measurement tools


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