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CBT can help pregnant women with a fear of needles

Fear of blood and injections is common among pregnant women. It triggers stress and anxiety, which increases the risk of difficult deliveries, premature birth, and increased morbidity among newborns. But the symptoms can be relieved with cognitive behaviour therapy, a new dissertation at Linköping University shows.

A phobia of blood and injections is most often established in childhood. The condition manifests itself in anxiety and sometimes panic attacks, and in certain cases fainting. In pregnant women, the symptoms tend to come more frequently. In a study of 1,529 pregnant women from maternity clinics in Linköping, Västervik, and Kalmar, it appeared that over seven percent suffered from the phobia.

“The most important message is that the condition is quite common – those who suffer from it don’t need to feel alone. We’ve also shown that it’s possible to do something about the problem,” says Caroline Lilliecreutz, who has just earned her MD in obstetrics and gynaecology at Linköping University and is a specialist at the Women’s Clinic at University Hospital.

Women in the study group responded to the IPSA – a survey with questions on blood and injection phobias. It consists of 18 questions where anxiety is graded on a scale of 0-4 in various situations, for example ‘getting a shot in the buttocks’. Those who were over a certain level were interviewed by a psychotherapist. For 110 women, or 7.2 percent, blood and injection phobia could be diagnosed – a surprisingly high proportion.

A review of maternity charts for these 100 women in comparison with the 220 who did not suffer from the phobia indicated an increased risk for complications during delivery. Planned Caesarian sections, low birth weight, and morbidity in newborns were more common in the cases where the pregnant woman was affected by a blood and needle phobia.

The study also showed that the women affected had higher percentages of the stress hormone cortisol in the saliva than in the healthy women.

“High percentages of cortisol in mothers-to-be is unfavourable for the baby and can affect the development of the foetal nervous system,” Lilliecreutz says.

But if the symptoms of a blood and injection phobia are detected in time, group cognitive behaviour therapy can be of good help. 30 of the women in the study underwent two sessions of the therapy during their pregnanices. The results were positive even three months after the treatment was discontinued.

Contact information:

Caroline Lilliecreutz +46 10-1030000, caroline.lilliecreutz@liu.se

Gunilla Sydsjö, professor, supervisor,+46 70-9925395, gunilla.sydsjo@liu.se

Therese Winder 2010-11-15

Page manager: therese.winder@liu.se
Last updated: 2010-11-15